The Punjab government has released more than 800 workers of the banned Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), days after reaching a deal with the group to end nearly two weeks of protests and clashes, Punjab Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Raja Basharat said on Tuesday.
Talking to Dawn.com, he said the people who were released were those arrested during crackdowns on the protests — which started on the 12th of Rabiul Awwal — and raids.
They were released after scrutiny was completed, Basharat said, adding that workers against whom first information reports (FIRs) were registered would have to obtain bail from courts.
The minister said it was yet to be decided whether TLP workers who were detained under Section 16 of the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) 1960 would also be released.
In a statement, Special Assistant to the Chief Minister Punjab for Information Hassan Khawar said more than 1,800 people had been taken into custody under MPO, of whom 860 had been released. He added that the remaining marchers would be released soon as well.
He further said meetings of the government's steering committee were being held to devise the plan for the implementation of the agreement inked with the TLP.
Meanwhile, the tortured body of a policeman was found from fields in Wazirabad on Tuesday, police spokesperson Nayab Haider said.
The TLP had launched the latest round of protests in Lahore on Oct 20, 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".
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.
After three days of clashes with the police in Lahore, the TLP started a long march to Islamabad on Oct 22. Five 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 Grand Trunk Road.
The TLP leadership on Oct 30 asked the protesters to wait at Wazirabad for further instructions when the government and the group started negotiations.
On Sunday, members of the negotiating team from the government side claimed that they had reached an 'agreement' with the proscribed group but refused to divulge its details.
Mufti Munibur Rehman, who facilitated the talks along with some other religious leaders, had said at the time that details of the agreement 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.
According to sources, the government 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.
'Alliance with TLP means isolation'
Meanwhile, Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry said the TLP would be "over sooner than Sunni Tehreek" — a religious organisation that converted itself into a political party in 2012.
In a tweet, Chaudhry said that religious extremist groups "have capacity to use mob for violence but [their] capacity to stir politics has always been limited".
"At one point Sunni Tehreek was more violent than TLP but done n dusted this party will be over sooner, alliance with such party means [international] isolation," he added.