Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said on Tuesday that the government had "no reservations" on any of the demands put forward by the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban (TLP) — which has been staging protests in the streets for the last several days — except for the shutting down of the French embassy and expulsion of the French ambassador over blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
The minister, who was addressing the media in Islamabad after a meeting of the country's civil and military leadership, said there was agreement on all issues discussed with the TLP and it was decided that their demands pertaining to the French embassy and ambassador could not be accepted.
Accepting this demand would have consequences, he warned, claiming that since Pakistan was the biggest nuclear force among Muslim countries, "conspiracies are being hatched to impose sanctions on us".
"You all can see what our economic situation is and France is leading Europe. All European countries are supporting France," he said. Shutting down the French embassy here would affect Pakistan's relations with other European countries, he explained.
He reiterated that the government and TLP had reached an agreement on all other issues, while the latter had given a deadline for November 2 for the acceptance of this one demand.
If the demand was accepted, "we would face immense pressure from the international [community]," Rashid said. "We face constraints, Pakistan faces constraints, this nation of 220 million faces constraints on this matter."
All other issues raised by the TLP were not as big, he said. "And we stand by our agreement reached with them (TLP)."
He expressed the hope that the TLP would withdraw its demands for the expulsion of the French envoy and the shutting down of the French embassy.
Moreover, the minister said, the TLP had committed to end the protest and unblock roads today (Tuesday) by midnight.
"We are waiting for that, and I will get in touch with them again tonight at 8pm," he informed the presser. "After that, I will again talk to the prime minister."
He pointed out that the ongoing protest was the sixth demonstration being staged by the group,
The TLP had launched the latest round of protest in Lahore on the 12th of Rabiul Awwal, primarily to exert pressure on the Punjab government for the release of its chief, Hafiz Saad Hussain Rizvi, the son of its late founder Khadim Rizvi. The younger Rizvi has been kept in detention by the Punjab government since April 12 for “maintenance of public order".
Later, it had announced to march on Islamabad, prompting the government to block the routes leading to the capital.
However, TLP leader Pir Ajmal Qadri had later said the purpose of the move was "respect for the Holy Prophet (PBUH)", while also demanding Rizvi's release.
Meanwhile, as the group's workers had marched towards the capital, at least three policemen were martyred in clashes with them.
TLP leaders had also claimed that several of the groups workers had been injured in the clashes and scores were arrested, only to be released later.
Following the release of TLP workers, Rashid had said another round of talks with the group would be held at the Ministry of Interior in Islamabad.
On Monday, Rashid had assured to fulfil the commitments the government made with the TLP during negotiations a day earlier, saying the matter would be discussed during a federal cabinet meeting on Wednesday following Prime Minister Imran Khan's return from Saudi Arabia.