Govt succeeds in convincing TLP leaders to end protest after lengthy negotiations

Updated 16 Nov 2020

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Security personnel stand at Murree Road to prevent violence by TLP activists who are camped at Faizabad. — Mohammad Asim/White Star
Security personnel stand at Murree Road to prevent violence by TLP activists who are camped at Faizabad. — Mohammad Asim/White Star
A view of Murree Road blocked with containers before TLP activists approach Islamabad on November 15. — Mohammad Asim/White Star
A view of Murree Road blocked with containers before TLP activists approach Islamabad on November 15. — Mohammad Asim/White Star

The government succeeded in convincing the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) to end their sit-in after hours-long negotiations on Monday, the spokesperson of the Ministry for Religious Affairs said.

The negotiations were held on the directions of the prime minister by a team of government officials, led by Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noorul Haq Qadri. The government's negotiation party also included Interior Minister Ijaz Shah, Islamabad Commissioner Aamir Ahmed and prime minister's adviser Shehzad Akbar.

TLP Chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi is expected to formally announce the end of the protest soon after which cellular services in the capital will be restored.

Islamabad administration had deployed 3,113 security personnel including police, Rangers and Frontier Corps at Faizabad — where supporters of TLP had gathered to protest against publication of blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) in France.

The rally in Rawalpindi, which attracted up to 5,000 people on Sunday, continued today, with around a thousand protesters gathered at the roadblock preventing them from entering the capital.

A notification, dated November 15, issued by the office of Islamabad Senior Superintendent of Police (Operations) detailed security arrangements in the capital to prevent violent incidents from taking place.

"It is expected that participants in the rally could go violent and proceed towards French embassy by breaking their promises with the district administration," the notification read. Senior officers of Islamabad's administration had approached TLP leaders yesterday after they sought security cover for Sunday's protest rally. The protesters are demanding the government to recall Pakistan's ambassador from France and expel French ambassador in Islamabad.

The officers had tried to convince TLP leaders and organisers of the rally to call it off due to the prevailing virus situation, said sources, adding: “Covid-19 is spreading all over the country, including Islamabad.”

In the notification issued by SSP Operations, security officials have been directed to ensure the security of citizens, key government installations, maintenance of public order and dismantling terror attacks.

Mobile signals remained suspended in Islamabad and Rawalpindi for a third day and roads leading to Faizabad Interchange as well as entry points of Islamabad were blocked by placing containers. Journalist Gharidah Farooqi, in a tweet, said that the government's "incompetence [was] infuriating" and demanded to know when cellular services would be restored.

Senior journalist Talat Hussain tweeted a picture of a digital map showing roadblocks in the capital, terming it "sad and sorry".

According to a Dawn correspondent, the law and order situation in the twin cities was under control and there were reports of mobile signals being restored in some areas.

The situation is starkly different from what it was on Sunday when Liaquat Bagh presented a scene of a battleground as police and stick-wielding TLP activists clashed throughout the day.

Riot police had to resort to teargas shelling against the stone-pelting protesters who had gathered on the call of TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi to denounce the publication of blasphemous caricatures in Charlie Hebdo magazine and remarks about Islam and terrorism by French President Emmanuel Macron.

During the clashes, dozens of police personnel, including Waris Khan police station SHO Abdul Aziz, and several TLP activists were injured and shifted to hospitals.

The city’s 24 entry points were sealed with shipping containers, including Soan Bridge, Kutchery Chowk, Mareer Chowk, Liaquat Bagh, Shamasabad, Rehmanabad, Double Road, Adiala Road, Chur Chowk and I.J. Principal Road. As many as 16 entry points to Islamabad were also blocked.


Additional input by AFP.