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Pakistan to Retain Ban on Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan

by Newsweek Pakistan

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In post-cabinet press conference, information minister says government has opted to ignore NCOC recommendation and only grant three days off for Eidul Azha

Pakistan’s federal cabinet on Tuesday decided to retain a ban on the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) political party, announced Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, adding that a report submitted by the Interior Ministry had also recommended the same.

The minister recalled that the ban had been imposed under anti-terrorism laws, adding that the government would take the matter to the Supreme Court to get the party dissolved and have its election symbol cancelled through the Election Commission of Pakistan. He said the cabinet had finalized its decision after reviewing the Interior Ministry’s report on the TLP’s appeal against the ban.

The TLP was banned in April after the party’s supporters staged riots across Pakistan over the government’s refusal to expel the French ambassador over the publication of blasphemous caricatures in the European state last year. During the violence, several policemen were killed or injured, prompting mass outrage and demands for action.

During his briefing, Fawad claimed the party would not be permitted to return under a new name. “Gone are the days when parties would reemerge with a different name,” he claimed.

Prisoners’ release

The information minister also announced that the cabinet had been informed that Saudi Arabia had agreed to release 85 Pakistani prisoners for Eidul Azha, adding that a special plane would be dispatched to the Gulf state to bring them back home. He credited Prime Minister Imran Khan’s efforts for the development and claimed that the government was making efforts to bring back all Pakistani citizens detained on minor charges in foreign countries.

Fawad said the cabinet had approved 15 percent special allowance in the salaries of armed forces, in addition to the 10 percent increase already proposed in the federal budget, claiming this would bring their salaries on par with those of other departments. He said the prime minister had said this facility should also be extended to Rangers and the Frontier Corps.

The cabinet also fixed the retail prices of 49 medicines. According to the minister, a review was also conducted of the security protocol currently being extended to incumbent and former government officials. He claimed it had found that former prime ministers, retired judges, chief ministers, bureaucrats and members of the opposition parties had more security than the members of the federal cabinet.

Eid and coronavirus

Hailing the “record” administration of 525,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines on Monday, Fawad said the National Command and Operation Center had revealed that 20 million people had received at least one dose of various vaccines thus far. He urged the public to get vaccinated and adhere to SOPs to prevent the spread of the pandemic, adding that—for now—the situation in Punjab was under control, but a marked uptick had been observed in Karachi and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The minister also announced that the cabinet had approved three holidays for Eidul Azha—July 20-22—which covers the first two days of the festival but not the third. He admitted that the NCOC had recommended five days off to help curb the pandemic, but marinated that the cabinet felt three were sufficient.

The cabinet was briefed on the electronic voting machines the incumbent government claims would help reform Pakistan’s electoral process, with Fawad claiming they had been told there had been some headway in talks between the government and opposition. Reiterating his belief that the introduction of EVMs would bring about transparency, he said there was great likelihood of “positive developments” in the introduction of electoral reforms.

The information minister said the cabinet had also decided to form an assets management company to oversee the properties of the federal government. He said the prime minister had expressed concerned over the depleting green areas of Islamabad due to unplanned expansion of residential societies, adding that various institutions, including the Pakistan Navy and Pakistan Air Force, had been directed to remove fences from their properties to protect green areas. He said the Capital Development Authority chairman had also been directed to ensure the federal capital was free of all encroachments.

On Afghanistan, Fawad said the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions had presented a report on Afghan refugees in Pakistan, noting that 3 million refugees were already in the country. He said Islamabad expected this number to increase if the security situation in the neighboring nation deteriorated further. “It is not just the responsibility of Pakistan. The international community, especially the superpowers, should come forward to share the burden,” he said, adding that Islamabad was extending all possible support to secure a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan.

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