Pakistan Allows Banned TLP to Contest Polls After It Agrees to Drop French Embassy Closure Demand
21:46 GMT 03.11.2021 (Updated: 21:47 GMT 03.11.2021)
After more than two weeks of chaos and violence across the Punjab province in Pakistan, the Imran Khan government reached an agreement with the proscribed Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) group on Sunday. At least five police personnel were killed and scores injured in earlier clashes with TLP members during their protest march.
The Pakistani government has allowed the TLP —a far-right Islamist group banned under anti-terror law, to contest elections in exchange for its withdrawal of a longstanding demand for the closure of the French embassy in Islamabad.
On Wednesday, local media reported that the government will also free over 2,300 jailed TLP workers,
including the group's chief, Saad Hussain Rizvi, within the next few days.
Ali Muhammad Khan, the Federal Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, said that the deal with TLP is in country's interest and should not be viewed as a victory of any individual or group. The agreement has been kept secretive for some time due to an unidentified "certain reason".
"The state struck a deal with its people to restore peace in the country," Khan said during a TV discussion on Geo TV.
The minister said that Prime Minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) would welcome the group - banned in April 2021 - into the national mainstream.
"Did those people, who were opposing the deal, want to see another incident of Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in the country?" he asked.
The PTI leader accused anti-Pakistan elements of fueling violence in the country.
In 2007, over 100 people died in a clash between Pakistani security forces and Islamic fundamentalists inside the Lal Masjid compound.
27 October 2021, 13:01 GMT
The secretive deal is being implemented even as Pakistan's National Security Adviser Moeed W. Yusuf had warned the group of serious consequences, as he claimed TLP crossed "the red line and exhausted the state's patience."
On Tuesday, Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, the Pakistan Minister for Information and Broadcasting, predicted that the religious extremist group would not be able to impact politics.
"Religious extremists groups have the capacity to use [a] mob for violence, but their capacity to stir politics has always been limited; at one point Sunni Tehreek was more violent than TLP, but it's done and dusted. Alliance with such a party (TLP) means international isolation," Hussain said.
People have warned the government of sealing secretive deals with fundamentalists.
The TLP came into prominence in November 2020 after it held massive protests across Punjab, demanding the closure of the French Embassy in Islamabad.
Protests erupted as French President Emmanuel Macron defended the publication of caricatures of Islam's preeminent religious figure by the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
The group accused the Imran Khan government of not taking stand in favour of Islam.
In April, an estimated 800 police personnel were injured during clashes with TLP members. To curb the protests, the government banned the group under an anti-terror law.