Shah Mahmood Qureshi (R) and Mufti Muneebur Rehman (C) give a press conference in Islamabad on Sunday. AP
Pakistan's government and banned agitating Tehrik-e-Labiak Pakistan (TLP) group on Sunday reached an agreement to end a 10-day long — and at times deadly violent — rally calling for the closure of France's embassy and the release of the party's leader.
Neither Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi nor religious leader Mufti Muneebur Rehman, who took part in the talks, gave any details of the agreement at a news conference in the capital Islamabad.
Under the agreement, the protesters belonging to the proscribed outfit will vacate the blocked Grand Trunk Road near Wazirabad.
A steering committee, headed by Federal Minister Ali Muhammad Khan, was formed to oversee the implementation of the agreement. Those TLP arrested activists would be released after going through the legal process.
The talks were conducted by a group of religious scholars and federal ministers. Mufti Muneebur Rehman, accompanied by TLP leaders, and Federal Ministers Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Ali Muhammad Khan, Speaker Asad Qaiser and others, announced at a news conference that the agreement has been arrived at.
Muneebur Rehman, the first to speak from the line-up also featuring TLP members Mufti Ghulam Abbas Faizi and Mufti Mohammad Ameer, said that negotiations between the government and TLP have been "successful."
"The government of Pakistan and the TLP had a detailed discussion under the environment of mutual trust, and an agreement has been reached between the two sides," he said.
"The agreement was reached after sense prevailed over aggression, rationality prevailed over sentiments, and all the participants demonstrated patience. I want to urge the entire nation that this is not the victory of any individual, but it is the victory of Islam, patriotism, and protection of human lives. I want to tell the nation that these dialogues were never not held under any duress. They were held in a serious, responsible and independent environment, in which everyone made their contribution. Everyone deserves to be thanked for it."
Muneebur Rehman thanked all the parties involved for their help in striking the agreement. "I am thankful to the prime minister for empowering the committee and trusting it, and also to the committee for working dedicatedly to resolve this matter. Similarly, the TLP demonstrated the same behaviour. The agreement was also backed by TLP chief Hafiz Saad Rizvi," he added.
The press conference was delayed, with foreign minister telling reporters that it would be held "shortly."
Earlier, a senior TLP leader said negotiations were the only way forward and everybody wanted a way out of the current situation, however, the behaviour of some cabinet members was irresponsible. "Why did they brand us an Indian agent; the whole nation wants to know who is getting money from the enemies,” the TLP official said, adding that, "we have asked the government to change the negotiating team which does not insult us after the meeting.”
"I have made a committee which will obviously take decisions once - if - I'm inside" jail, the 70-year-old said in an interview in his Lahore home before heading to Islamabad early on Saturday. He said there were 94 cases against him.
For quite some time, the area became a battleground between the police and protesters. The government servants had planned the protest for the past two weeks and had made announcements to the effect.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Monday that he and the protesting proscribed Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) have the same objectives that there was no blasphemy against the Holy Prophet (PBUH) but their methods were different.
Pakistan's National Security Committee (NSC) vowed on Friday to crack down on banned TLP group if violent protests continue, toughening up its rhetoric after at least seven policemen were killed in clashes over the past week.
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The authorities said, “We strongly encourage everyone to rely solely on our official channels for accurate information to avoid unnecessary worry.”
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