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TLP demands: ‘Not in the position to expel French envoy’

Banned outfit threatens to resume "long march" on Islamabad

SAMAA | - Posted: Oct 26, 2021 | Last Updated: 1 month ago
Posted: Oct 26, 2021 | Last Updated: 1 month ago

The government has agreed to fulfill all demands of the banned Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan except the expulsion of the French envoy, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed announced Tuesday.

At a press conference in Islamabad, he said: "Pakistan is not in the position to expel the French ambassador or close the French embassy." The announcement came after the federal cabinet meeting.

The TLP had presented three demands, including one to expel the French ambassador to Pakistan, to Rasheed, who held talks with its incarcerated chief Saad Rizvi on Sunday.

On Tuesday, the minister revealed that the party's demand regarding the French ambassador was "very complicated". "Pakistan is Islam's biggest nuclear force. The world is plotting to impose sanctions on us and our economic condition is in front of you. France is leading Europe and all European countries are standing with France."

Rasheed added that the government is waiting for TLP to fulfill their promise of reopening roads. During the negotiations, they had promised to clear all roads by Tuesday and Wednesday. "I will call and take an update from them on that at 8pm."

The TLP has given the government a deadline till November 2. "We don't want to solve everything and then see them coming to the streets again."

Pakistan want peace. It is the country's need. We are already dealing with inflation and the dollar is becoming expensive, the minister said, reiterating that Islam and Pakistan are a single unit.

He has urged TLP's central council and Saad Rizvi reconsider their demand concerning the French embassy and ambassador. "I expect them to think better for Pakistan and Islam."

TLP warns to continue march if demands not met

Mufti Umair Al-Azhari, a member of the TLP negotiation committee, claimed Tuesday that Rasheed assured them that he would place their demands about the French ambassador's expulsion before the federal cabinet on Tuesday night and update the TLP about the response.

Rasheed said on Monday that TLP demands would be presented to the federal cabinet, SAMAA TV reported.

He told a press conference that the talks between the government and the TLP were conducive and that the government would live up to its promises.

Al-Azhari says if the government does not deliver on its promise to expel the ambassador, the TLP would go back to its long march on Islamabad on Wednesday morning.

The TLP leaders had earlier said they would resume the protest on Tuesday evening.

According to Al-Azhari they were not ready to soften on their key demand to expel the ambassador.

"Our other points have secondary importance. Sheikh Rasheed and other influential ministers on the government negotiation team are with us that Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan is a political party with a vote bank and the ban against it should be lifted," he said.

The TLP protesters have been encamped at Muridke since Sunday after leaving Lahore amid clashes with police.

Rasheed had announced on Sunday after talks with the TLP that the protesters would not head to Islamabad until Tuesday though they would continue a sit-in at Muridke.

After the announcement, the protesters occupied GT Road, blocking the flow of traffic between Lahore and Gujranwala.

"They have opened one track," Rasheed told the press conference on Monday.

Although Rasheed called the talks conducive, in the past he has ruled out the possibility of sending back the French ambassador, saying it would harm Pakistan's diplomatic and trade relations with the European Union.

Not letting their guard down

The authorities in Islamabad-Rawalpindi and other cities opened roads after the TLP march stopped at Muridke.

However, reports suggest authorities were not letting their guard down. The police continue to hold trucks at the River Jhelum Bridge near Jhelum on GT Road.

Law enforcement and district authorities regularly use trucks and shipping containers to block roads to stop marching protesters.

There are long lines of trucks at the River Jhelum Bridge as the police refuse to hand over keys and registration documents to the drivers, SAMAA TV's Imtiaz Baig reported.

The drivers say they have run out of food.


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