ISLAMABAD: While the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) declared on Thursday that it would not suspend its march to Islamabad, the government claimed that key issues had been settled with the party after the second round of negotiations, but the agreed points also include a demand that was not even made by the TLP.

The authorities were optimistic that the TLP’s “Pakistan Bachao March” (Save Pakistan March) would end even before entering Rawalpindi district and no arrangements were being made in the twin cities to manage security and traffic.

However, the party announced on late Thursday evening that the destination of its march was Islamabad and it still continues, as no settlement has been reached with the government.

The marchers, who set off from Karachi on May 22, are scheduled to cross Jhelum river on Friday (today) after overnight rest at Sarai Alamgir. They will then move towards Rawalpindi.

Govt claims key issues settled with party after second round of talks

Meanwhile, a two-member government side held a second round of negotiations with TLP in an attempt to persuade the party to call off its march to the federal capital.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and Economic Affairs Minister Sardar Ayaz Sadiq took part in the talks.

The TLP was represented by Dr Shafiq Amini, Ghulam Abbas Faizi, Mufti Muhammad Umair Al Azhari, Maulana Ghulam Ghous Baghdadi and Jeelan Shah.

Six points

The interior ministry said after the meeting that the negotiations had yielded a six-point understanding, including an assurance by the government that it would withdraw all directives given to Pemra and the PTA, the electronic media and telecom sector regulators, respectively, which deprived the TLP of media coverage.

The move will ensure that the party gets media coverage and is able to operate its pages on social media platforms.

Another key TLP demand was for speedy trial of those accused of committing blasphemy. The government agreed to install a filtering system to remove blasphemous content from social media, the ministry added.

The third demand was the establishment of a “Counter Blasphemy Department” by the government to prevent blasphemy of revered personalities and places.

The fourth point concerned the release of Dr Aafia Siddiqui from jail in the United States. The TLP wanted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to write a letter to the US government within three working days for Dr Aafia’s release.

An interesting aspect of the interior ministry statement was that the list of demands presented by the TLP did not include the last point — release of Aafia Siddiqui.

The government handout also said: “Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act will be applied to an individual facing blasphemy charge under section 295C of the PPC.”

Section 295-C relates to use of derogatory remarks against the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2023

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