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TLP Ends Sit-in at Wazirabad

by Newsweek Pakistan

Screengrab of Syed Sarwar Shah Saifi announcing an end to the Wazirabad sit-in

Group announces that demonstrators will now return to Lahore, where they will continue sit-in at their headquarters until the release of Saad Rizvi

The Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) on Monday ended its sit-in at Wazirabad after 11 days, with a senior leader directing the gathered crowd to return to the group’s headquarters in Lahore.

“Mufti Munibur Rehman gave us a guarantee and told us that when 50 percent of our issues were resolved, we should leave Wazirabad and return to the Masjid Rehmatul-lil-Aalemeen [in Lahore],” senior TLP leader Syed Sarwar Shah Saifi told thousands of supporters still remaining in the city. He claimed that detained chief Saad Hussain Rizvi—whose release has remained a sticking point between the government and the group—would be freed before the first death anniversary of his father, and the founder of the TLP, Khadim Hussain Rizvi.

“He [Saad] would mark the urs of Khadim Hussain Rizvi with us,” he said. “We will now return to the Masjid Rehmatul-lil-Aalemeen but we will not return to our homes,” he said, urging all the group’s supporters to continue their sit-in at Lahore.

Khadim Hussain Rizvi died on Nov. 19 in Lahore. The TLP’s latest announcement suggests that the group is willing to grant the government till then to secure the release of Saad Rizvi.

The federal government on Oct. 31 inked a “secret” agreement with the TLP to encourage it to end its ongoing sit-in demanding the release of detained chief Saad Rizvi and an end to the group’s proscribed status. While no details of the agreement have been officially confirmed, Mufti Munibur Rehman—who negotiated with the government on behalf of the TLP—said that the deal called for all of TLP’s imprisoned workers, including chief Rizvi, to be released; withdrawal of all pending cases against them; and an end to their proscribed status to allow them to contest elections without any concern.

The government has already released over 2,000 detained TLP workers in the past 8 days. On Sunday, the Interior Ministry also rescinded its proscribed status. In a notification, it said the decision had been taken on the request of the Punjab government “in the larger national interest.”

The TLP’s latest protest commenced on Oct. 19 at their headquarters in Lahore. After three days, the group’s leadership announced a long march on Islamabad to pressure the government to fulfill its demands. The often-violent demonstrations saw multiple clashes between police and the TLP, resulting in at least seven police officials being martyred and hundreds of injuries on both sides.

On Oct. 29, the TLP reached Wazirabad city in Gujranwala district. A day later, it said the long march was being “suspended,” with leaders directing supporters to remain in Wazirabad until negotiations with the government had concluded. Following the announcement of the secret deal a day later, most protesters returned home but thousands remained part of the sit-in, vowing to continue their demonstration until Saad Rizvi had been released.

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