Government, TLP ink deal to end impasse

Published November 1, 2021
FOREIGN Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addressing a press conference after the agreement reached with the TLP on Sunday. Mufti Munibur Rehman, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan are also seen.
— Mohammad Asim / White Star
FOREIGN Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addressing a press conference after the agreement reached with the TLP on Sunday. Mufti Munibur Rehman, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan are also seen. — Mohammad Asim / White Star

• Both sides maintain secrecy over details
• Barricades being removed from GT Road, Faizabad intersection
• Mufti Munib, Maulana Adil, Bashir Qadri, Aqeel Dhedi and Rafique Pardesi named as ‘guarantors’

ISLAMABAD: Members of the negotiating team from the government side on Sunday claimed that they had reached an ‘agreement’ with the proscribed Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in order to end the nearly two-week-long impasse, but refused to divulge its details.

“The government of Pakistan and the TLP held detailed negotiations in an environment of mutual trust and an agreement has been reached between the two sides,” announced Mufti Munibur Rehman at a press conference.

He was accompanied by government’s negotiating team members Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan.

Mufti Munib, who facilitated the talks along with some other religious leaders in their individual capacity, said the agreement had the backing of jailed TLP chief Saad Rizvi. Mufti Umair Al-Azhari, Allama Ghulam Abbas Faizi and Hafiz Hafeez participated in the negotiations from the TLP side, he added.

He said a steering committee headed by Minister Ali Mohammad Khan also comprising Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat, the federal interior secretary and Punjab home secretary, besides TLP representatives Mufti Ghulam Ghous Baghdadi and Engineer Hafeezullah Alvi would oversee the implementation of the agreement.

Some TLP representatives were present at the presser, but they kept silent.

Refusing to share contents of the deal, Mufti Munib said its details would be made public at an ‘appropriate time’. He, however, said its ‘positive results’ would be visible to the nation next week or during the next 10 days. He then used an English proverb “action speaks louder than words” to justify the move to keep details of the deal secret.

An off-colour Qureshi then felicitated the nation over the ‘development’. He refused to take questions from reporters, stating that they wanted “to wrap up the issues”.

Sources privy to the talks told Dawn that besides Mufti Munib and Maulana Adil, head of the Saylani Welfare Trust Bashir Farooq Qadri, leading businessmen Aqeel Karim Dhedi and Haji Rafique Pardesi had been named as “guarantors” in the agreement.

According to sources, the government has assured the TLP leadership that it would unfreeze the accounts and assets of the proscribed outfit and take steps to lift the ban. They said the TLP was also assured that the government would not pursue minor cases against the TLP leadership and workers, but the cases registered under the Anti-Terrorism Act would be decided by courts.

Mufti Munib later told Dawn it was agreed that the TLP would vacate GT Road, shift its sit-in to a ground in Wazirabad and would gradually end its protest with the implementation of the deal. He said both sides agreed that the TLP would abandon politics of agitation and sit-ins and in return it would be allowed to continue to function as a political party.

The development came a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan constituted another team to hold talks with the banned outfit after consulting some religious leaders who had conveyed TLP’s reservations over recent statements of the interior and information ministers about having support from India.

After three days of clashes with the police in Lahore aimed at pressing the authorities to release the TLP chief and expel ambassador of France over publication of blasphemous caricatures in a satirical magazine, the TLP started a long march to Islamabad on Oct 22. Since then, seven police officials were martyred and scores of others from both sides received injuries in clashes in Lahore and Gujranwala as the marchers moved on the GT Road.

The TLP leadership on Oct 30 asked the protesters to wait at Wazirabad for further instructions when the two sides went into the negotiations.

Hours after the presser in Islamabad, a TLP spokesman in a statement announced that the nation would soon hear good news and expressed the hope that “the steering committee will succeed in resolving the issues after completing work on the recommendations [agreement]”.

Claiming that the TLP did not want to create chaos in the country, the spokesman said all the decisions had been made in the best interests of Pakistan and Islam. Holding a peaceful protest was their constitutional and legal right, he said, adding that a final announcement to end the long march would be made by the leadership after further consultations with the TLP Shura members.

After Mufti Munib’s presser, some TLP marchers started leaving the sit-in venue and the local administration moved heavy machinery to remove barricades from Ravi and Jhelum river bridges on GT Road. Also, the Rawalpindi administration started removing the containers from the Faizabad intersection.

Reuters quoted a TLP spokesman, Sajid Saifi, as saying their supporters were ready to pack up but were awaiting instructions from the party leadership. He said he hoped Saad Rizvi and all activists arrested in recent days would be released soon.

Mufti Munib told the news conference they had succeeded in reaching the agreement after rationality prevailed over sentiments and aggression. “I want to tell the entire nation that this is not the victory of one individual, but it is the victory of Islam, Pakistan, patriotism and protection of human lives,” the Mufti said.

He asked the media to report the development in a ‘positive manner’.

On Saturday, the TLP had acknowledged its meeting with a government team in Rawalpindi in a press statement. In its second release issued late in the night, the TLP had agreed to abide by all the assurances it had given to the government including stopping the march in Wazirabad.

According to sources in the TLP, the incarcerated TLP chief also participated in the talks. Official sources confirmed that Saad Rizvi and three senior members of the TLP Shura — Maulana Shafiq Amini, Engineer Hafeezullah and Pir Inayatul Haq — had been brought from Lahore to Islamabad for holding direct talks with the government.

Waseem Ashraf Butt from Gujrat also contributed to the report

Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2021

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