The federal government said that it cannot be dictated by any party or group and approved the deployment of Rangers in Punjab cities to maintain law and order amid protests by a religious party.
Briefing the media in Islamabad after attending the cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said dictation to government from any party or group was indigestible.
The science and technology minister was responding to media queries about the protests by a religious party that has crippled life in major cities and claimed the lives of three, including two policemen. Nearly 100 policemen have also been injured in clashes with the protesters.
He said a party or group could present their demands in a democratic way upon which negotiations could be held, but decision-making could not be left to any party or group.
Over 300 policemen in #Punjab, including 97 in #Lahore, injured, many seriously, after violent protesters attacked them with clubs, bricks and firearms. Gujrat district police officer and Kharian Deputy superintendent of police were among the injured. THREAD ON VIOLENCE 1/n
— Mehreen Zahra-Malik (@mehreenzahra) April 14, 2021
When his attention was drawn towards violence and agitation in various parts of Pakistan, the federal minister emphasised that things would be fine soon. “No group or party must even think of dictating the government or the state. If a state allows this, then it will disintegrate and there will be chaos,” he said.
He said any student group, lawyers’ body or religious group could present their demands and there could be talks in a democratic manner, but there was no room for dictation to the government or state.
Why is TLP protesting?
The TLP was protesting blasphemous caricatures published in France and demanding that the French ambassador be sent home and import of goods from that country banned. The government reached an agreement with the TLP on Nov 16 to involve the parliament to decide the matter in three months.
You won’t see this on Pakistani media but that’s how Constable Afzal lost his life. Sub ki zubano ko taalay lag gayay hain. pic.twitter.com/k1DZz8X60J
— Nighat Dad (@nighatdad) April 13, 2021
As the Feb 16 deadline neared, the government expressed its inability to implement the agreement and sought more time. The TLP agreed to delay its protest by two-and-a-half months to April 20.
On Sunday, Mr Rizvi, in a video message, asked the TLP workers to be ready to lunch the long march if government failed to meet the deadline. It prompted the government to arrest the TLP chief.
Government to sign an agreement with TLP?
Whether the government will sign an agreement with the TLP or not is yet to be determined. However, the past record of the government shows that it signs agreement with the far-right movement despite the use of abusive language and incitement of violence. Commenting on the agreement in 2018, journalist Salman Masood wrote: “The terms of the agreement with TLP leadership is capitulation. Hardly a victory for progressive forces. TLP continues to gain more ground.”
Prominent journalist Muhammad Ziauddin pointed out if the Fatwa against the judges had also been dropped? “The agreement between the government and the mob leaders. But they have not withdrawn the Fatwa calling for killing the three Supreme Court Judges and the call for revolt within the Army against the Army Chief. Not even regrets about these calls.”
Political commentators believe that the government is unlikely to take any stern action against the protesters. “The government will never offend the religious parties in any way,” said an analyst.