NSC resolves to not tolerate 'any further breach of law' by TLP

Published October 29, 2021
Prime Minister Imran Khan presided over a meeting of the National Security Committee on Friday. — Photo courtesy: PMO
Prime Minister Imran Khan presided over a meeting of the National Security Committee on Friday. — Photo courtesy: PMO

The National Security Committee (NSC) on Friday resolved to not tolerate "any further breach of law" by the proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TLP) — which has moved forward with its long march to Islamabad despite warnings from the government.

According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office after the 35th NSC meeting, the civil and military leadership were briefed about the country's internal security situation and the ongoing agitation by the proscribed group.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, who presided over the meeting, told the participants that "no group or entity will be allowed to cause public disruption or use violence to pressure the government."

Members of the federal cabinet, National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairperson Gen Nadeem Raza, all three services chiefs, and the directors-general of the Inter-Service Intelligence, Intelligence Bureau, Federal Investigation Agency, and senior civil and military officers attended the meeting.

According to the statement, the participants of the meeting said the state’s restraint should not be seen as "a sign of weakness".

Emphasising that the "government recognised the right of peaceful protest of all Pakistanis, committee members were unanimous that the TLP was deliberately employing violence against public property, state officials, and ordinary citizens to create instability in the country and that this shall not be tolerated," the statement said.

The NSC decided that "all organs of the state stood ready to act as per the law to protect the life and property of citizens," and noted that no previous government or prime minister had taken such an unequivocal stance on the issue of Namoos-i-Risalat and Islamophobia.

"Under the current government, Pakistan has successfully brought these issues to the fore of international diplomatic discourse in the United Nations, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and European Union, among other fora," the NSC observed, adding that one of the key objectives behind constituting the recently established Rehmatul-lil-Aalameen Authority was to "intellectually counter international propaganda against Islam and sanctity of Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him)".

Participants criticised the "TLP’s misuse of religion and the issue of Namoos-i-Risalat for political gains" saying that the move was "misleading the common man" and creating internal discord within society, according to the statement.

"The TLP’s violence has ended up furthering the agenda of sectarian elements and external enemies of the state," the statement said, adding that "no such violent agitation had taken place in any other Muslim country" despite over 1.5 million Muslims across the world having immense regard and respect for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

The committee also recalled that the TLP had adopted the "ploy of violent street agitation on numerous occasions since 2017 and made unrealistic demands each time, solely as a tool to gain political strength."

In the process, the TLP’s actions had caused public disorder, serious economic losses to the country, besides boosting the morale of other terrorist outfits seeking to challenge the state’s writ, the participants regretted.

"The committee unanimously resolved to guard its sovereignty from all internal and external threats and not allow [the] TLP to challenge the writ of the state in any way. Participants endorsed the government’s decision to negotiate with the group only within the bounds of law, without offering leniency for any crimes committed by TLP operatives," the statement said.

It quoted the the prime minister as saying that all measures and actions necessary to enforce the law and protect the interests of the state and public shall be ensured.

The participants of the meeting also praised police for showing "professionalism and restraint, despite being directly targeted and suffering casualties," the statement said. It added that at least four policemen had been martyred in clashes with the proscribed group and over 400 had been injured.

"PM Imran and committee members expressed condolences at the loss of life of policemen and committed to compensating and looking after their families," the statement said.

PM Imran also commended the exceptional performance of law enforcement agencies, and assured participants that the government will firmly stand behind officials as they act to enforce the law and protect the public, the statement concluded.

Talks underway between govt and Saad Rizvi: Sheikh Rashid

Earlier today, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said that negotiations were underway between the government and detained TLP chief Saad Hussain Rizvi on ending the proscribed group's march to Islamabad.

Briefing the media after the NSC meeting, Ahmed said the government wanted to "amicably" resolve the matter of the protest march, which has disrupted life in several Punjab cities for two weeks.

The minister announced that PM Imran would address the nation on Saturday about the current security situation, saying "he will present the entire situation before the nation and his speech will explain the narrative of the government."

He said four policemen had been martyred in clashes with TLP workers, while more than 80 had been injured, eight of them critically.

"We stand by our position and we are waiting for them (TLP) to abide by their commitment to open the GT Road."

Ahmed said it was also expected that Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri would talk to the TLP leadership again.

Referring to one of the TLP's demands, the minister said the government had taken the matter of the French ambassador's expulsion to the parliament, adding that the opposition would not vote in favour of such a move.

He noted that TLP protesters were heading to Islamabad for the seventh time. "People are facing difficulties, the demonstrators should review their stance," he said.

On Thursday, Interior Minister Ahmed had called on the TLP to stick to the promises it had made with the government, warning that "things will be out of my hands" if the group failed to do so.

Speaking on Geo News' programme 'Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Saath', the minister said he had spoken to the TLP leadership — including its chief Saad Hussain Rizvi — multiple times in recent days and would talk to them again on Friday (today) and Saturday. "However, the talks would only be held after [the TLP] returns," he added.

'Will not tolerate this joke for long'

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry also berated the TLP, saying that the government would "not tolerate this joke for long" and urged the protesters to end their long march.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, he said there was "no debate" on the finality of Prophethood in Pakistan and that using it as an excuse to create a "divisive environment" was an "uncivil act".

He also criticised religious scholars for not openly condemning the TLP.

The minister added that the government only wanted the TLP to end the protest and, while staging peaceful demonstrations was their right, the group could not force the government to accept their demands by resorting to violence.

Chaudhry said the government was willing to hold talks with anyone, but within the ambit of the law.

He said PM Imran had taken unprecedented and exemplary measures against Islamophobia and for the sanctity of Prophethood. "But the TLP bringing out a mob in the streets [cannot be tolerated]."

The minister also commended police and law enforcement agencies for their services to the country, saying that they had the complete support of the national leadership.

Referring to the NSC meeting held earlier in the day, Chaudhry said the civil and military leadership were on the same page regarding the TLP issue.

"Such unrest is a conspiracy against Islam and the goal is to divide people under the guise of religion."

The minister said the social media accounts of the proscribed group had been monitored in the past, and it was revealed that they were receiving support from India. He said that government will monitor the TLP's social media accounts and keep the media informed of the developments.

Chaudhry said the government didn't want bloodshed in the streets and and wanted to settle matters peacefully.

"But this should not be taken as our weakness. We are prepared for every eventuality and sacrifice [...] and are prepared to go to any length, if needed."

He stressed that the issue needed to be resolved through negotiations as soon as possible as the country's economy had been suffering. "This can't continue for long and their leadership should call off the protest at the earliest," he concluded.

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