Pakistan government to table resolution in Parliament seeking expulsion of French envoy and also release of all arrested workers
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed early on Tuesday announced that the banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan had agreed to call of its nationwide protests in exchange for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government tabling a resolution in Parliament to expel the French ambassador.
In a short video statement, uploaded to his social media accounts, he said the resolution would be presented to the National Assembly today, adding that the decision was taken after negotiations with the leadership of the proscribed party. There was no session of the National Assembly scheduled for Tuesday, but opposition lawmakers told media that the government had summoned a last-minute session early in the morning.
“Talks with the party will continue,” Rashid said, adding that under the deal agreed with the banned party, the government would drop all cases registered against all TLP workers, including those booked under the Fourth Schedule. The Fourth Schedule is a list of suspected terrorists under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997. Anyone designated under it has their movement monitored by local police and law-enforcement agencies and are required to inform their local police station before traveling outside its jurisdiction.
The announcement follows multiple rounds of talks between the TLP and several government delegations that included the interior minister, Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar, and Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat.
The TLP has been protesting across Pakistan since last week following the arrest of its chief, Saad Rizvi, from Lahore on April 12. The protests turned violent several times, resulting in the deaths of police, civilians and supporters of the banned party, as well as hundreds of injuries and losses to public and private property. The group had earlier vowed to continue their sit-ins until the government expelled the French ambassador over the publication of blasphemous caricatures; released party chief Saad Rizvi; lifted the ban on the party; and released all arrested protesters.
On Monday, Prime Minister Imran Khan sought to reduce tensions by announcing, in a nationally televised address, that the PTI’s aims were the same as those of the TLP, but their methods were different. Explaining that expelling the French ambassador would prompt retaliation from the European Union, and could hamper Pakistan’s export industry, he vowed to continue raising the issue of Islamophobia at various international forums.
During his speech, the premier also stressed that riots in Pakistan would do nothing to harm France, adding that the only way forward was for all Muslim states to unite and “educate” the West on the pain experienced by Muslims when Islam’s Prophet is maligned.