TLP protesters clear GT Road, to continue sit-in at Wazirabad until Saad Rizvi's release

Published November 1, 2021
This image shows Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan supporters staging a sit-in at a ground in Wazirabad. — Screenshot from footage provided by reporter
This image shows Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan supporters staging a sit-in at a ground in Wazirabad. — Screenshot from footage provided by reporter

Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan workers (TLP) on Monday abandoned their long march to Islamabad after the proscribed group's leadership inked an agreement with the government, but continued their sit-in in Wazirabad for a fourth day.

Following the deal with the government, TLP supporters vacated Grand Trunk (GT) Road and Allah Wala Chowk. However, they pitched tents at a nearby ground, and said they would stage a sit-in until TLP chief Saad Rizvi is released. Rizvi was detained by police under the Maintenance of Public Order ordinance on April 12 and remains incarcerated.

Meanwhile, roads leading to the inner city were opened. However, traffic was not restored at the Chenab Toll Plaza where police and Rangers were still deployed and roads leading to Gujrat and Sialkot also remained blocked.

Security officials said that the ditches dug up along GT Road to dissuade the protesters from marching to Islamabad will be filled up once they receive orders from higher-ups.

Traffic on GT Road remained suspended and cars and trucks remained stuck, while internet services also continued to be disrupted.

Separately, a steering committee headed by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan also met in Lahore to oversee the implementation of the agreement.

Taking to Twitter, Khan said that GT Road had been cleared after TLP protesters moved to an open ground in Wazirabad away from traffic "as per the agreement".

"I appreciate the TLP leadership for honouring their commitment and the government is already implementing its side of the agreement since last night," the minister said.

In a subsequent update, he shared that roads from Zafar Ali Khan Chowk to Allah Hu Chowk had also been cleared. "Traffic flow is normal now and [there is] NO issue of road blockage because of the protest, which has been shifted to an open, vacant ground," he said.

Govt, TLP ink deal to end impasse

On Sunday, members of the negotiating team from the government side on Sunday claimed that they had reached an "agreement" with the proscribed group in order to end the nearly two-week-long impasse, but refused to divulge its details.

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

“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,” Mufti Muneebur Rehman announced at a press conference.

He was accompanied by the 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 Muneeb, 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.

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

Refusing to share the contents of the deal, Mufti Muneeb 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 Muneeb 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 Muneeb 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.

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