LAHORE: Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) on late Friday night announced an end to the sit-in after striking a deal with the government.
A TLP spokesperson confirmed that TLP would be calling off its nationwide protests which began after Aasiya Bibi’s acquittal in a blasphemy case by the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday.
The agreement was signed by the representatives of both sides. According to the five-point agreement, the government would not object to the review petition filed against Aasiya Bibi’s acquittal by the top court and the legal process to place her name on the Exit Control List (ECL) would be initiated immediately. Also, the deaths (if any) which took place during the course of protests, would be investigated as per law and the government would release all protestors arrested since October 30. Moreover, TLP also apologised for the inconveniences caused because of the protests.
RESOLUTION THROUGH NEGOTIATIONS:
The federal government on Thursday had decided to negotiate with the protesting religio-political parties as Prime Minister Imran Khan formed a committee, comprising Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi.
The government had also formed a committee to take the opposition into confidence over any action against the protestors. The opposition, on its part, had announced to support the government in its efforts to solve the stand-off peacefully, with Leader of the Opposition in the House Shehbaz Sharif and PPP’s Bilawal Bhutto supporting the initiative of negotiations on Thursday.
However, no meeting between the government and the opposition was held on Friday as the session of the National Assembly was adjourned because of a lack of quorum.
ROADS REMAINED BLOCKED:
The protests continued for the third day on Friday as TLP called for a shutter-down strike amid efforts by the government to diffuse the situation.
Roads were empty and certain routes were blocked in major cities. Although most of the routes that were closed a day earlier in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad were later opened for traffic, some continued to remain blocked.
In Karachi, roads were blocked in at least 25 places, which include Teen Talwar, Nazimabad, Liaquatabad, Star Gate at Shahra-e-Faisal, Numaish, Sohrab Goth, Korangi 5, Ranchor Line, Power House Chowrangi, Nagan Chowrangi, Qayyumabad, Murtaza and Bilal Chowrangis, New Karachi, Sanjrani Town, Landhi 89 and Teen Hatti. The road to Jinnah International Airport from Star Gate was also blocked and commuters were advised to use the University Road.
In Lahore, roads were blocked at Charring Cross at Mall Road, Data Darbar, Shahdara Chowk, Askari X, Kalma Chowk and Bhatta Chowk. Roads leading to Muridke, Nathe Khalsa, Paka Meel and Mohlanwal were also blocked.
In Islamabad, the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Faizabad Interchange was blocked. Roads were blocked at Dhoke Kala Khan and Tramri and Karal Chowks. A motorways spokesperson said that routes to Lahore and Kamoke to Rawalpindi were open for traffic. However, the motorway from Kamoke to Lahore was blocked. Further, roads leading to Taxila, Pir Sohawa, Sarai Alamgir and Gujrat were blocked.
In Peshawar, the Ring Road and GT Road were blocked. Roads leading to the motorway were also blocked.
On Wednesday, following the protests, Section 144 was imposed across Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan barring the gathering of more than four persons in public places as well as pillion riding. Section 144 was also imposed till November 10. Moreover, hospitals were put on high alert to deal with any untoward situation arising out of the protests.
AFRIDI WARNS OF ACTION:
Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi said that the government would deal with those protesting over Aasiya Bibi’s acquittal through dialogue and would take action in case of violence.
While speaking to the media, he said, “I am 100 per cent certain that we will be able to resolve the matter through dialogue. We are in constant contact with those who are leading the protests.”
Afridi further said that Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is currently on his first official visit to China, was also being constantly briefed on the situation.
“We will not use any form of power, but if there is any violence, then the state will enforce its writ and take pro-active measures to ensure the safety of people and property,” he added.
“We are receiving positive messages from the Wafaq-ul-Madaris and people from all schools of thought. We are also in harmony with the opposition parties as well as all stakeholders, including civil-military”, he further stated.
Regarding the Supreme Court verdict, Afridi said, “The decision upholds that no blasphemy was proven and we should be happy about that.”
He further highlighted, “All stakeholders love and uphold that there can be no compromise on respect for the Holy Prophet (PBUH).”
FAWAD RUBBISHES REPORTS OF OPERATION:
Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry cast aside reports circulating on social media of any operation by the government against the demonstrations taking place across the country.
“The government does not wish to resort to the use of force. Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Noorul Haq Qadri will continue to hold talks with the leadership of the demonstrators,” the minister said.
“The situation across the country is under control. Negotiations are ongoing with the protesters. The government is a guarantor of the people’s lives and freedom. Reports of any operation against the demonstrators are false,” he added.
Chaudhry said that negotiations were ongoing between the government and the protesters and that the “State’s patience must not be mistaken for weakness”.
Referring to Pakistan army’s role in the war against terror, Fawad said, “Let us not forget that the army cleared out terrorist havens in Pakistan. Those who want to oppose the writ of the state, let it be known, the state’s authority will not be challenged.”