The activists of proscribed Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) remained in Wazirabad for the sixth consecutive day on Wednesday, camping at a park in the city, awaiting the release of party chief Saad Hussain Rizvi even after the government claimed it had reached an agreement with the protesters on Sunday.
Rizvi, who is the son of late TLP founder Khadim Rizvi, was taken into custody under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Ordinance 1960 on April 12 over charges that he had incited his followers to take the law into their own hands as, according to him, the government had reneged on its promise to expel the French ambassador.
The Lahore High Court ordered Rizvi's release last month but the government did not move ahead with the order, planning instead to take the case to the Supreme Court, triggering the TLP's latest round of protests in Lahore on Oct 20.
After three days of clashes with the police in Lahore, the TLP began a long march to Islamabad on Oct 22. Five police officials were martyred and scores from both sides received injuries in clashes in Lahore and Gujranwala as the marchers moved towards the capital on the Grand Trunk Road.
The TLP leadership had on Oct 30 asked the protesters to wait at Wazirabad for further instructions when the government and the group started negotiations. Both sides reached an agreement the next day but have not made the details public.
A source had on Tuesday told Dawn that the government was now considering releasing Rizvi. “The government is seriously mulling over to cool down the situation in a manner that its efforts do not go waste and a long-term solution is reached in wake of government-TLP agreement,” added the source. However, no action on this has been taken so far.
In the latest development, the TLP workers have erected a camp at a park near Allahwala Chowk in Wazirabad but refrained from disrupting routine life in adherence to directives of the group's leaders. The personnel of law enforcement agencies are also present in the surrounding of the park, monitoring the situation.
However, internet service remains suspended in the city, causing hardships to people. The obstacles placed on the railway bridge on the River Chenab three days ago to bar the TLP marchers from crossing it on foot were removed, but trenches dug by authorities were not filled until Wednesday evening, causing disruption in the movement of vehicular traffic towards Islamabad.
Meanwhile, Punjab Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Raja Basharat had a day ago confirmed that the Punjab government had released more than 800 workers of the TLP.
Separately, Aqeel Karim Dhedhi, who was also one of the guarantors of the deal with the TLP, defended on a private television channel the release of TLP activists amid the killing of police personnel, saying it was hard to single out actual culprits in mob attacks.
"We have to forget this killing and move on. We cannot put the country at risk with killing of 10 people," he said in the show.
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.
Read: Lessons to be learnt from the latest TLP debacle
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.