Interior minister claims he has no knowledge of the current secret deal, including the identities of its signatories
Proscribed Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Saad Hussain Rizvi had refused to back down from his demand for the closure of the French embassy in Islamabad during negotiations last week, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed claimed on Thursday, contradicting Mufti Munibur Rehman who had accused him of lying about the “ultimatum.”
“Rizvi was convinced to withdraw the demand [for the closure of the French embassy] and was assured the matter would be placed before Parliament,” Rashid told journalists in in Lahore. “In this regard, I had signed an [agreement], which I stand by,” he said, adding that he was not aware of the terms of the secret deal that had been inked between the government and the TLP to convince the group to call off its long march on Islamabad.
Without actually naming Mufti Munib, the minister alleged that there was no truth to the claims of a “religious personality from Karachi” who had said that the TLP had never demanded the severing of diplomatic ties with France. Earlier this week, the cleric had told media in Karachi that the federal ministers who had been negotiating with the TLP—Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain and Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed—had “lied” to the people about the proscribed group demanding the severing of all ties with France to end its protest.
To a question, Rashid said he was not authorized to comment on the government’s deal with the TLP. He told journalists to talk to the two ministers—Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan—who had been appointed to negotiate with the banned group.
While the government has yet to officially confirm the terms of the deal it has signed with the TLP, it has initiated a series of measures suggesting what it entails. Earlier this week, the government released thousands of detained TLP workers and dropped the cases against them—provoking outrage from critics who have questioned the decision in light of the martyrdom of seven policemen in clashes with the group’s activists. The Punjab government has also initiated the process of revoking the proscribed status of the TLP and removing its leaders from the Fourth Schedule.