Govt revokes TLP's proscribed status

Published November 7, 2021
Supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) gather in a protest march in Muridke last month. — AFP/File
Supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) gather in a protest march in Muridke last month. — AFP/File

The interior ministry on Sunday issued a notification to announce the revocation of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan's (TLP) proscribed status, days after the government reached a deal with the group to end its violent protest march to Islamabad.

The notification was issued hours after the federal cabinet approved the proposal by the interior ministry seeking the TLP's de-proscription.

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.

The interior ministry's notification said: "The [Punjab] cabinet has considered the request of the organisation (TLP) and in view of the assurance and commitment by the organisation, is of the opinion that the said organisation shall abide by the Constitution and laws of the country, and therefore, keeping in view the larger national interest and long-term perspective to ensure that such incidents do not recur in future, the Government of Punjab has proposed to the federal government to consider revoking of proscription of [TLP].

"Therefore, [...] the federal government is pleased to remove the name of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan from the First Schedule of the [Anti-Terrorism Act] as a proscribed organisation."

A day earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan had approved the submission of the ministry's summary to his cabinet while an anti-terrorism court granted post-arrest bail to several leaders of the group in the criminal cases registered with different police stations.

"The cabinet considered the summary dated Nov 6, submitted by the Interior Division, which was circulated in terms of Rule 17 (1)(b) read with Rule 19 (1) of the Rules of Business, 1973 for 'de-proscription of TLP' and approved the proposal," said the decision by the cabinet issued today, seen by Dawn.com.

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.

As per the contents of the Ministry of Interior's summary, the TLP had made a request to the Punjab government for its de-proscription on April 29.

A proscription 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 while 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 (TLP)" 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 had noted.

TLP's protest

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.

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, 1997.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, the government transferred the entire police high command of Lahore in a massive reshuffle in the wake of their “mishandling of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan’s violent rally”.

Several regional police officers (RPOs) and district police officers (DPOs) were also reshuffled in Punjab.

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