Shared by a government spokesman, the letter alleged written by Saad Rizvi says end to road blockages is in national interest
A letter purportedly written by Saad Rizvi, the chief of the proscribed Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) has urged his supporters to “immediately end all protests and road blockages” across Pakistan “in the interest of the nation.”
Made public by Special Assistant to the P.M. on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill, the handwritten letter is dated April 15 (Thursday) and was allegedly penned while in police custody, as Rizvi has been under arrest since Monday. His detention had provoked nationwide riots by TLP supporters, resulting in several deaths and hundreds of injuries and damages to public and private property. As the protests showed no signs of easing after three days of violence, the government on Wednesday announced it was banning the “extremist group.”
“I, Hafiz Saad Rizvi, son of [late] Khadim Hussain Rizvi, with complete clarity of mind, and without any force, appeal to all the central leadership and workers of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik that in the interest of the nation and the public good, please do not take any illegal steps,” reads the letter allegedly written by Rizvi in Urdu. “All protest rallies and road blockages must immediately be brought to an end. All workers must disperse peacefully and head on to their respective homes and fully cooperate with law enforcement agencies,” it adds.
The statement specifically mentioned a sit-in outside Lahore’s Masjid Rehmatul Lil Alameen, and urged TLP workers to conclude it peacefully.
The purported Rizvi letter followed the Interior Ministry issuing a notification declaring the TLP a proscribed organization over ‘terrorist’ activities. “The federal government has reasonable grounds to believe that Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan is engaged in terrorism, acted in a manner prejudicial to the peace and security of the country, involved in creating anarchy in the country by intimidating the public, caused grievous bodily harm, hurt and death to the personnel of law enforcement agencies and innocent bystanders, attacked civilians and officials, created wide-scale hurdles, threatened, abused and promoted hatred, vandalized and ransacked public and government properties including vehicles and caused arson, blocked essential health supplies to hospitals, and has used, threatened, coerced, intimidated, and overawed the government [and] the public and created sense of fear and insecurity in the society and the public at large,” reads the notification, which says it is being placed in the First Schedule under powers conferred by Section 11B(1) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.
Earlier, in a press conference, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed had claimed that the TLP had “dangerous intentions” and had been adamant about staging a sit-in at Rawalpindi’s Faizabad Interchange. Implying the government had arrested Rizvi to prevent this, he praised law enforcement agencies for successfully ending mass blockades, and vowed to visit the homes of the deceased and injured to offer his support.
Claiming that the government was willing to “negotiate” with the rioters, the interior minister said it merely wanted to “reduce” the harsh language of legislation it had promised to place before Parliament for the expulsion of the French ambassador over the publication of blasphemous caricatures in France.
“No one is being allowed to go, no relaxation will be provided to them,” he said of the hundreds of TLP supporters who have taken into custody for their role in the riots. Meanwhile, Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri, who was also present at the press conference, claimed he had spent the past two years trying to “mainstream” the TLP and induct them into the “political process” but had failed in his aims.