ISLAMABAD: The opposition on Friday lashed out at the government in the National Assembly for signing what it called an “illogical” agreement with the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) last year about expulsion of French ambassador from the country and severing of trade relations with France over its government’s stance on publication of blasphemous sketches in a magazine.
The government, however, claimed it had never inked any agreement regarding expulsion of the ambassador. Rather, an understanding had been reached with the TLP that a resolution would be tabled in the assembly regarding removal of the ambassador.
The agreement with the TLP, as reported by the media, read: “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.”
In September 2020, French magazine Charlie Hebdo had republished blasphemous sketches of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that triggered protests across the Muslim world. TLP was among the parties and groups that mounted protests in Pakistan over the issue.
“When the government knew that it could not sever bilateral relations with France, then why such an agreement was signed with TLP,” asked Naveed Qamar of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) during a debate in the National Assembly.
MNAs demand that a committee be set up to deliberate on the objectives of establishing the TLP and those behind the move
He said the government was thinking of moving the Supreme Court for dissolution of TLP, but the parliament was not being taken into confidence over the matter. “Nothing is being conveyed to the parliament,” he said.
Mr Qamar asked whether decisions in the past to ban certain organisations had been implemented in letter and spirit. He said the interior minister should inform the house on details of the banned organisations and what action, if any, had been taken against them.
Syed Imran Ahmed Shah of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said the government should cut all sorts of relations with France and its ambassador should be sent back. “The maximum debt owed to France might be Rs17 billion to Rs18bn, which the lovers of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) could retire from their own pockets,” he remarked.
Former prime minister and senior PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi asked why the assembly’s proceedings lasted on an average for two hours only when the house could easily be asked to sit for four hours.
Weighing in on the issue, Mr Qamar asked Speaker Asad Qaiser to hold consultations with all the parties in the parliament regarding timings of the sessions.
Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F’s member Salahuddin Ayubi was of the opinion that JUI-F could be banned just as TLP had been.
During the debate, the opposition demanded that a committee be set up to deliberate on the objectives of establishing the TLP and who were behind the move.
Riaz Pirzada of the PML-N said the members of the assembly should be informed who had formed two banned organisations, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan. “First a genie is created that later becomes a headache for its creators,” he added.
On this, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Muhammad Ali Khan said the government had not signed any agreement that the French ambassador should be removed. “We just assured the TLP that a resolution will be tabled in the parliament in this regard,” he said.
During talks with the government the TLP had insisted that the government should table a resolution of its (TLP’s) choice in the parliament, the minister added.
Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2021