Vehicles are struck during a protest march of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party in Muridke, on October 24, 2021, demanding the release of their leader Hafiz Saad Hussain Rizvi, son of late Khadim Hussain Rizvi, founder of hardline religious political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik. Image Credit: AFP

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has announced the government’s dialogue with the leadership of the religious outfit Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) hit a breakthrough and the protesters had agreed to call off their march on Islamabad.

The TLP has now converted its march to sit-in, said Rashid while addressing a press conference on Sunday.

In return, the government has agreed to withdraw cases against them and cancel the First Information Report (FIR) earlier registered by police, he added.

We shall also consider their demand of releasing the party supremo Saad Rizvi and removing his name as well as his associates from the Fourth Schedule, said Rashid.

The Fourth Schedule defines the elements found to be or suspected of anti-state activities or delivering hate speeches and/or activists of religious outfits not yet banned but related with militancy in any way.

Blocked roads to be cleared gradually

The interior minister further said that all the roads, which had been closed earlier to stop the protesters from marching towards Islamabad, would be cleared for traffic gradually.

The TLP protesters would not move forward to Islamabad but would rather stay in Muridke, Punjab’s city till Tuesday or Wednesday, he added.

TLP wants release of leader, expulsion of French envoy

The TLP is not only demanding release of Saad Rizvi, its leader and son of the firebrand head of the party Khadim Rizvi, who died earlier this year in a march after leading a similar protest, but it also wants expulsion of the Ambassador of France from the country.

In April, the government had agreed to take to the parliament the TLP demand of expelling the French Ambassador. The resolution was, however, never tabled.

In Sunday’s press conference, Sheikh Rashid ‘admitted’ the TLP was justified in its demand that no progress was made on the agreement reached despite passage of six months.

In a tweet, Minister for Law, Parliamentary Affairs & Cooperatives, Punjab, Raja Basharat said the dialogue was successful and the banned outfit’s workers had agreed to stage a sit-in on the road between Sheikhupura and Gujranwala.

He also shared that all roads that were closed in Punjab would be cleared.

PM directs early resolution of stand-off

A day earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan who is currently in Saudi Arabia, had directed the federal and the provincial ministers to hold negotiations with TLP after they threatened to march towards Islamabad.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had held a telephonic conversation with Religious Affairs Minister Pir Noorul Haq Qadri to discuss the prevailing law and order situation.

On the directives of the prime minister, Qadri had arrived in Lahore from Karachi to hold negotiations with the banned outfit’s leadership.

The government’s negotiation team comprised Rasheed, Qadri and Punjab Law Minister Muhammad Raja Basharat.

The PM had also directed the interior minister to return to the country from the UAE, where he had gone to watch India-Pakistan’s high-voltage T20 World Cup clash fixed for Sunday.

Trench dug on GT Road to stop protesters

On Saturday, the police had dug up a trench on GT Road near Gujranwala in response to an announcement by TLP that they would march on Islamabad.

A deep and long pit was dug with the help of cranes while the roads were also blocked in advance by placing containers.

This caused inconvenience to motorists and commuters across the both sides of the main road.

Three officials of the Punjab Police have lost their lives while several were injured in the recent clashes with TLP protesters.

The outfit leadership has also claimed death of several workers as well as injuries in the police firing.