TLP claims govt accepted all its demands

Updated 17 Nov 2020

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ISLAMABAD: Sitting around empty tear-gas shells fired by the police, supporters of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan shout slogans during an anti-France demonstration on Monday. — AFP
ISLAMABAD: Sitting around empty tear-gas shells fired by the police, supporters of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan shout slogans during an anti-France demonstration on Monday. — AFP

•Protesters continue to occupy Faizabad
•No official confirmation of agreement

ISLAMABAD / RAWALPINDI: The Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) late on Monday night announced that the government had accepted all its four demands, but made no announcement about calling off its sit-in.

A spokesman for the TLP released a copy of the handwritten agreement carrying signatures of Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noorul Qadri, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah and the deputy commissioner, Islamabad.

The agreement says the government will take a decision from the Parliament regarding expulsion of the French ambassador within three months, will not appoint its ambassador to France and release all the arrested workers of the TLP. The government will not register any case against the TLP leaders or workers even after it calls off the sit-in.

There was no official confirmation from the government of the agreement, but the interior ministry issued a notification regarding immediate release of all those arrested during the past two days from different parts of Punjab.

The authorities had earlier put off an expected operation against the TLP protesters after Prime Minister Imran Khan took notice of the matter and ordered talks to resolve it peacefully.

Mr Qadri had been tasked with holding negotiations with the TLP leadership.

When contacted, Mr Qadri said he was in Lahore when the PM called him and both discussed the agenda. He expressed the hope that an agreement with the TLP would be signed after which the protesters would disperse soon.

Asked under what terms the protesters would leave Faizabad, the minister said the TLP would announce the points of the agreement from its stage.

The TLP has been demanding expulsion of the French ambassador and a boycott of French products.

Officials of the capital administration and police told Dawn on condition of anonymity that earlier the government had categorically asked them to remove the protesters and get Faizabad and its adjacent areas cleared.

As a result, the officials said, the police and the paramilitary troops started making formations to start an operation in the afternoon but it was called off at the eleventh hour after a message was conveyed to senior officers of police and administration not to proceed with the plan. The TLP leaders were approached who then sent a delegation for talks, the officials added.

Earlier on Sunday night, a large number of TLP leaders and activists reached Faizabad where law enforcers used teargas to disperse them, but the protesters managed to remove the barricades and pushed back the police and paramilitary troops.

The officials said a well-equipped contingent of capital police, including Counter Terrorism Force, Anti-Terrorism Squad and Anti-Riot Unit along with paramilitary troops participated in the operation that started at around 4:15am and continued till 8am on Monday.

Physical confrontation between the protesters and security officials also took place. The operation was suspended at 9am, the officials said, adding that the protesters spread to all sides of Faizabad Interchange following which Murree Road was sealed from Rawal Dam Chowk, Islamabad Expressway from Zero Point to Khanna and I.J. Principal Road from Ninth Avenue. The Red Zone was also partially sealed including Khayaban-i-Suhrawardy, Srinagar Highway from Dhokri Chowk and Fazl-i-Haq Road at Polyclinic Chowk, the officials added.

The district administrations of the twin cities had also sealed entry points — 24 in the garrison city and 16 in Islamabad — with freight containers and heavy trucks.

Meanwhile, around 26 police officials, including DSP Tariq Mehboob, SHO Abdul Aziz, two sub-inspectors, three constables, 10 Elite Force and three Dolphin Force personnel, were injured in the clashes.

The metro bus service and public transport remained suspended on Monday. Residents faced inconvenience in commuting due to road blockades, with many families stranded on G.T. Road. Ambulances remained stuck on roads leading to hospitals. Markets along Murree Road and downtown areas also remained closed.

Two separate FIRs — one with Waris Khan and the other with Race Course police station — were registered against more than 850 people.

As many as 86 TLP workers who had clashed with the police in Rawalpindi and unlawfully staged protests were arrested and shifted to Adiala jail.

According to police sources, 400 people in Rawalpindi have been arrested since Sunday.

Mobile phone and internet services in Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Attock, Jhelum and Chakwal remained suspended.

Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2020