'Peace on what terms?': Politicians, journalists chastise govt for keeping mum on TLP agreement

Published November 1, 2021
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, right, and top religious leader Mufti Muneebur Rehman, centre, who helped negotiate an end to a protest march by Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, give a press conference, in Islamabad on Oct 31. — AP
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, right, and top religious leader Mufti Muneebur Rehman, centre, who helped negotiate an end to a protest march by Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, give a press conference, in Islamabad on Oct 31. — AP

Several politicians and journalists have lambasted the PTI government for keeping mum on the agreement inked with the proscribed Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).

The agreement came after nearly two weeks of protests by workers of the banned group, which also claimed the lives of at least five police officials and injured more than 250 others as the TLP proceeded with its long march to Islamabad.

Read: Why the state remains handicapped in front of TLP

As protesters camped in Wazirabad for a third day, the government announced on Sunday that it had inked a deal with the proscribed group but refused to divulge the details of said agreement.

Addressing a press conference alongside government officials, Mufti Muneebur Rehman — who facilitated the talks along with other religious leaders in their individual capacity — said the details would be made public at an "appropriate time".

He added, however, that "positive results" would be apparent to the nation next week or during the next 10 days.

Reacting to the development, PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar on Monday called on the government to release details of the agreement. "The government should inform the people and the Parliament about the agreement made under the cover of the night," he said.

"The people of this country have a right to know about the agreement made with a proscribed group which caused loss of life and property and upended citizens' lives for weeks."

He demanded to know whether the martyrdom of Punjab police officials was in vain and if the perpetrators will be punished.

He recalled that when the Hazara community staged a protest by refusing to bury their deceased, Prime Minister Imran Khan had told them not to "blackmail" him, but now the state had "fallen to its knees".

"Corner shops are not managed the way they are running the state," he remarked

Khokar said that history was witness to the fact that it was damaging when the state succumbed to such elements.

Legal adviser for the International Commission of Jurists, Reema Omer, said that nothing about the government's press conference announcing the agreement reached with the TLP "inspired confidence, least of all the 'secret agreement'".

"Unfortunate, though hardly surprising," she said.

Lawyer and activist Jibran Nasir called on the media and all stakeholders to ask the PTI government why TLP chief Saad Rizvi was not formally arrested if the group is banned, a terror outfit, and its actions are against state interests.

"Why is the script of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat [regarding] arbitrary detention being repeated?" he questioned.

"Our brave police officers are dying for nothing. This state and its policies are an insult to their sacrifices. The TLP is being kept alive and will be kept alive to be the political nuisance it was intended to be, a variable in Punjab used as and when the establishment wants it to," Nasir said.

"Pakistan is perhaps the only country where, after banning an outfit and proscribing its leaders under anti-terrorism laws, support for the outfit and its leaders grow exponentially and is solidified. Our counter-terror polices are an eyewash cultivated by power brokers," he said.

PPP Senator Sherry Rehman also questioned the agreement and the decision to disclose details at "an appropriate time".

"Peace with the state on what terms?" she questioned.

Former MPA Irum Azeem Farooque said it was yet another agreement with the banned TLP that was branded an India-backed militant organisation by the government a few days ago.

"Men in uniform performing their duty killed by this militant group. What a shame to give in to their demands."

New York Times correspondent Salman Masood said it was yet another "capitulation after blowing hot and cold for days".

"But this time the embarrassment is such that the exact details of the agreement with the TLP aren’t even made public.

"The good thing is that the misery of common citizens will end a little, roads will clear up, businesses will resume and some sort of normalcy will crawl back. All till the next crisis," he surmised.

Renowned TV anchorperson and analyst Dr Moeed Pirzada questioned how the state had surrendered to a group that was supposedly being funded by India.

On Oct 27, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had categorically said the TLP would not be allowed to challenge the writ of the state and would be treated as a "militant" group and not a religious party.

The minister had also alleged that TLP activists were receiving "social media help" from India and some other countries.

"After killing seven policemen and a loss of billions to the economy, a RAW supported entity signs an agreement with the state of Pakistan that looks like a ceasefire with a sovereign state?" Pirzada asked.

Bushra Gohar, a former MNA and rights activist said: "Yet another surrender agreement to be signed with the alleged RAW funded banned religious extremist group TLP ... #GayaPakistan."

Nayadaur Media Executive Editor Murtaza Solangi noted that the information minister had been reiterating how the government was asking the TLP to disperse and go back.

"Today the shameless government has no courage to even release the terms of the agreement with the TLP," he said.

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