Interior minister says he will continue meetings with banned group in bid to get it to end its suspended long march on Islamabad
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Tuesday announced that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government is willing to accept all demands of the banned Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP)—barring their primary demand for the severing of all diplomatic and economic ties with France.
“We have various constraints regarding the matter of French ambassador,” he told journalists in Islamabad, reiterating that Islamabad was under “great pressure” over the TLP’s demand and could face “various issues” if it were implemented.
“We want them to review their demand related to the French embassy,” he said, adding that he hoped that the TLP would call off its sit-in in light of the government agreeing to release its detained workers and remove its senior leaders from the Fourth Schedule.
To a question, Rashid said that a report on his dialogue with the TLP leadership had been submitted to Prime Minister Imran Khan. He said this had been discussed during a meeting of the civil and military leadership, adding that all stakeholders were willing to accept the TLP’s demands.
The interior minister lamented that the TLP had yet to reopen roads it had blocked, claiming it should have been implemented by Tuesday night. “I will make contact with them once again today and tomorrow also. I want a permanent solution to this issue and I want to wind up this matter rather than letting it linger on further,” he said and reiterated his claims of “Pakistan’s enemies” using the TLP protest to “plot conspiracies” against the country.
The TLP has been camped near the town of Muridke on the G.T. Road leading to Islamabad since Sunday, vowing to continue their protest until chief Saad Rizvi has been released. Since commencing its march from Punjab capital Lahore last week, the group’s violent agitation has killed three policemen and injured dozens more. The group claims at least six of its workers have been killed by police and hundreds more injured, but there has been no independent confirmation of this.
On Tuesday night, the TLP leadership issued a statement emphasizing that it would resume its march toward Islamabad if the government did not fulfill its agreement. In response, the district administrations of Rawalpindi and Islamabad restored road blocks in the twin cities to avoid a potential surge. Reportedly, more than 10,000 TLP workers have gathered near Muridke and are ready to march on Islamabad.