Protesters wait in Wazirabad
Report by Zulqarnain Iqbal
Prime Minister Imran Khan has made a key offer during a meeting with ulemas as he sought their help in defusing the ongoing tensions between the government and the banned militant Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan.
The PM has said the his government would not oppose the release of TLP Chief Saad Rivzi if courts made a decision, but he would not issue an executive order in this regard, SAMAA TV reported.
However, the prime minister said the concession was linked to TLP activists ending their long march. He allowed the ulema to meet with Saad Rvizi.
The ulema have said that the PM also assured them that authorities would not launch any operation against the TLP protesters as long as the talks continued.
Reports suggest that the TLP protesters had stopped at Wazirabad as the talks renewed.
The group of religious leaders, from the Barelvi sect, was headed by Sunni Ittehad Council Chairperson Sahibzada Hamid Raza. The delegation of ulema arrived at Imran Khan’s Bani Gala residence to assist the government in figuring out a middle ground in negotiations with the banned organisation.
At least 25 ulema were invited for the meeting which lasted for hours.
SAMAA TV reported that a 12-member committee was formed to help resolve the crisis. The committee would be in contacts with both the government and the TLP leadership, it said.
According to the delegation’s sources, the ulemas don’t want to let go of another chance of negotiations with the party.
After the meeting, Federal Minister Noor-ul-Haq Qadri told journalists that Prime Minister Imran Khan is hopeful that a solution will be found soon and that the talks would yield results
He said the prime minister knows how to get out of every crisis and his body language is always calm.
Qadri said the state has its own position to restore the writ.
Qadri and Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed were working with the ulema to draft a statement.
Hamid Raza told journalists that the government would not launch an operation against the protesters until the end of the talks.
After leaving Bani Gala, the ulemas met with TLP’s Saad Rizvi.
Earlier, President Arif Alvi, too, met a delegation of the Ahle-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat at the Aiwan-e-Sadar. He urged them to help the state in resolving the TLP debacle.
The prime minister has, on the other hand, postponed his address to the nation which was initially scheduled for Saturday. He was to brief the people regarding the government narrative on the ongoing political situation in the country.
Supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan are waiting for instructions from leaders and have decided to stay in Wazirabad. On Friday, they entered Gujranwala where the Punjab Rangers have drawn a red line.
TLP long march is still in Wazirabad. The group’s spokesperson tells me they can see Rangers personnel standing just a few kilometres away from them and that their leaders have told them to wait in Wazirabad because they are talking to the government in Islamabad. #TLPDharna— Roohan Ahmed (@Roohan_Ahmed) October 30, 2021
They have placed a banner 500m from the Chenab toll plaza. According to DAWN, a banner put up by the security forces read: “Beyond this line, the responsibility for law and order lies with Pakistan Rangers (Punjab), who have been given the authority to open fire at the miscreants so all people are strictly warned to return to their homes” reads the warning message.”
The marchers, in thousands, are on foot, cars and even buses.
Mobile phone and internet services in Gujranwala have been suspended. Earlier in the day, the Pakistan Railways announced that two trains from Karachi to Rawalpindi, Tezgam Express, and Pakistan Express, have been suspended on both inbound and outbound routes.
Green Line trains running between Lahore and Rawalpindi have been suspended as well, a railway spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, security forces in Rawalpindi have sealed the city’s entrance with tankers, trucks, and containers to prevent the protesters from entering it.
Earlier this week, nearly 11 police officers were killed and multiple were injured during clashes between the police and marchers. Consequently, the federal government deployed Rangers in the province under Article 147, which allows the provincial government to entrust its functions to the federation.
At a press conference Friday night, Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry warned TLP supporters to back off. “Go back home. Negotiations can be held from there as well. To the families whose members are at the protests, call your people back. We won’t tolerate this joke for long.”
He added that there’s no doubt in that. But all the negotiations will take place under the framework of the law and constitution.
A statement by the Prime Minister’s Office, released later at night, stated that the PM, in the NSC meeting, reiterated that “no group or entity will be allowed to cause public disruption or use violence to pressure the government”.
It was also observed that the TLP was deliberately employing violence against public property, state officials, and ordinary citizens to create instability in the country and that this shall not be tolerated.
The statement added that “TLP’s misuse of religion and the issue of Namoos-i-Risalat for political gains” was misleading the people and creating internal discord within the society.