Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday approved the submission to his cabinet of a summary seeking the revocation of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan's (TLP's) proscribed status.
The government had declared the TLP a proscribed outfit under the anti-terror law in April this year, after three days of violent protests by the group's members across the country.
As per the contents of the Ministry of Interior's summary, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the TLP had made a request to the Punjab government for its de-proscription on April 29.
A prescription review committee (PRC) was then constituted to deliberate on the matter and it concluded that the government's decision to declare the TLP a proscribed outfit was "based on merit", the summary said recalling the history of the entire episode.
It added that the views of the law ministry had also been obtained on the matter.
"In view of the commitment and assurance given by the organisation" as well as "keeping in view the larger national interest", the provincial cabinet asked the federal government to consider de-proscription of the TLP, the summary noted.
"The prime minister has been pleased to accord permission for submission of the instant summary to the cabinet through circulation under Rule 17 (1)(b) of the Rules of Business, 1973," the summary stated, adding that "the approval of the cabinet is [now] solicited to de-proscribe the TLP under [...] Anti-Terrorism Act ,1997 on the recommendation of the Punjab government."
According to the Rules of Business, 1973, approval by circulation means that a summary is sent to federal ministers for their opinion. The ministers' recommendations are then sent to the prime minister after a stipulated period of time for further decisions on the matter. If a minister fails to respond within the stipulated time period, it is assumed that they have approved the recommendations made in the summary.
The matter of TLP's de-proscription again came under consideration following another days-long protest by the TLP, which started on October 20 in Lahore. The protest, which had turned violent, was primarily launched to exert pressure on the Punjab government for the release of TLP chief Hafiz Saad Hussain Rizvi, the son of its late founder Khadim Rizvi, and the expulsion of the French ambassador over blasphemous sketches of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
The situation seemed to improve only after negotiations between the TLP and government started on October 30, with the members of the negotiating team from the government side claiming the next day that they had reached an 'agreement' with the proscribed group but refused to divulge its details.
Sources had told Dawn the TLP was 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. It also assured the TLP leadership that it would unfreeze the accounts and assets of the proscribed outfit and take steps to lift the ban.
Punjab cabinet's recommendation
Following recommendations of the federal government's steering committee and Punjab cabinet committee on law, the provincial government on Thursday sent a summary to cabinet members seeking their approval on lifting of the ban on TLP as early as possible. "If the opinion/approval will not be received from any minister in three days, it shall be deemed that the minister has accepted the recommendations contained in the summary," the document read.
The sensitivity and importance of the issue can be gauged from the fact that, according to sources, all provincial ministers immediately conveyed their approval to the chief minister's secretariat.
A senior Punjab government official said the chief minister would now forward the provincial cabinet's approval to revoke the TLP's proscription to the federal government for a final go-ahead. "The federal cabinet will approve the revocation and the interior ministry will eventually notify it," the official added.
While some 2,100 TLP activists have been released from police custody after the federal government-TLP agreement, the revocation of the group's proscribed status will automatically remove around 8,000 TLP activists from the Fourth Schedule — a list on which suspects of terrorism and sectarianism are placed under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997.