TLP ends protest after deal with government

Published November 3, 2018
TLP workers told to disperse peacefully. — Photo/File
TLP workers told to disperse peacefully. — Photo/File

LAHORE: The Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) on Friday night agreed to end its protest sit-ins across the country after reaching an agreement with the federal and Punjab governments under which the latter will put the name of Aasia Bibi — who has been acquitted by the Supreme Court of blasphemy charge — on the Exit Control List (ECL) and refrain from objecting to review of the court judgement.

The TLP leaders later announced ending the three-day sit-in and asked the protesters to disperse peacefully.

The Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasoolullah (TLYR) has, however, distanced itself from the agreement and continued its sit-in outside Data Darbar. TLYR chief Dr Ashraf Asif Jalali said his party had nothing to do with the government-TLP agreement.

Under five-point agreement, government will initiate process to place Aasia’s name on ECL and won’t object to review of her acquittal

The rightwing protesters under the banner of TLP had launched the countrywide protest and sit-ins soon after the Supreme Court overturned the death sentence awarded to Aasia Bibi by a trial court and upheld by the Lahore High Court, and ordered her release on Wednesday.

The federal and Punjab governments had entered into negotiations with the TLP leaders and ulema in Lahore to resolve the issue amicably, but there was no success despite several rounds of talks.

However, on Friday night, both sides reached a five-point agreement under which the government would not object to the review petition filed against the acquittal of the Christian woman and would initiate a legal process to place her name on the ECL. The government told the TLP leadership that it would initiate legal action against those who were involved in killing some civilians and injuring law enforcement personnel during the countrywide protests, but release others arrested on Oct 30 and afterwards.

On the other hand, the TLP only tendered an apology to those who faced problems because of its protests, sit-ins and road blockades.

The agreement was signed by Minister for Religious Affairs Sahibzada Dr Noor-ul-Haq Qadri, Punjab Law Minister Basharat Raja, TLP patron-in-chief Pir Afzal Qadri and its central Nazim-i-Aala Waheed Anwar.

Following the agreement, TLP leaders Pir Afzal Qadri and Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi held an internal meeting and addressed a press conference on The Mall, Lahore, late in the night. They claimed that some other points had also been agreed upon that were not made part of the agreement.

Mr Qadri said the Supreme Court would form a full bench without the three judges, who had issued the Oct 30 verdict in the blasphemy case, and review the decision which was “rejected by the whole nation”. “This is for the first time that the whole country came to a grinding halt following a Supreme Court decision,” he said, claiming that many of the SC judges had also disputed the judgement.

Referring to an apprehension that Aasia Bibi has been sent abroad, Mr Qadri said that “a war would immediately begin in the country and there (would be) a call for a revolution”. “We have also made it clear to the government party that all protesters will come back to their protesting positions, if there will be any mistake,” he warned.

Khadim Rizvi said all the arrested protesters, including those implicated in cases, would be immediately released. “We know how to respond if the government tried to victimise any of the arrested protesters. All protesters were defending Namoos-i-Risalat,” he said.

Talking to Dawn, Punjab Auqaf and Religious Affairs Minister Pir Syed Saeed-ul-Hassan Shah said the government had held a number of rounds of talks with the rightwing party leaders because it was a sensitive religious issue. “The government took time to ensure that fitna and fassad (mayhem) is not created in the country and people’s life and property are protected.”

Punjab Information Minister Fayyaz-ul-Hassan Chohan said the government delegation had finally reached an agreement and the ever-worsening situation was now under control.

However, officials privy to the development said that there was not a word about the damage caused to the properties and vehicles and injuries inflicted upon the common people during the past three days.

Published in Dawn, November 3rd, 2018

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