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No agreement was inked with TLP regarding expulsion of French ambassador, says government

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Muhammad Ali Khan said the government had not signed any agreement that the French ambassador should be removed.

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Pakistan’s National Assembly met after a three-day standstill caused by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) across the country. The opposition lashed out at the government in the National Assembly for signing what it called an “illogical” agreement with the TLP last year about the expulsion of French ambassador from the country and severing of trade relations with France over its government’s stance on the publication of blasphemous sketches in a magazine.

The government, however, claimed it had never inked any agreement regarding the expulsion of the ambassador. Rather, an understanding had been reached with the TLP that a resolution would be tabled in the assembly regarding the removal of the ambassador.

“When the government knew that it could not sever bilateral relations with France, then why such an agreement was signed with TLP,” asked Naveed Qamar of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) during a debate in the National Assembly.

On the other hand, Syed Imran Ahmed Shah of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said the government should cut all sorts of relations with France and its ambassador should be sent back. “The maximum debt owed to France might be Rs17 billion to Rs18bn, which the lovers of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) could retire from their own pockets,” he remarked.

During the debate, the opposition demanded that a committee be set up to deliberate on the objectives of establishing the TLP and who were behind the move.

Riaz Pirzada of the PML-N said the members of the assembly should be informed who had formed two banned organisations, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan. “First a genie is created that later becomes a headache for its creators,” he added.

On this, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Muhammad Ali Khan said the government had not signed any agreement that the French ambassador should be removed. “We just assured the TLP that a resolution will be tabled in the parliament in this regard,” he said.

Government’s agreement with TLP

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The agreement with the TLP, as reported by the media, read: “The government will take a decision from the Parliament regarding the expulsion of the French ambassador within three months, will not appoint its ambassador to France and release all the arrested workers of the TLP. The government will not register any case against the TLP leaders or workers even after it calls off the sit-in.”

Read more: “Strict Action”: Polls show a majority of people against TLP Actions

In September 2020, French magazine Charlie Hebdo had republished blasphemous sketches of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that triggered protests across the Muslim world. TLP was among the parties and groups that mounted protests in Pakistan over the issue.

TLP banned in Pakistan

The National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) on Friday has placed the TLP on the list of banned organizations. The TLP has been given the 79th number on the list and has been banned from collecting any kind of donations. Giving donations to the TLP will now be considered as terror financing, the NACTA officials said.

Meanwhile, Interior Ministry has written letters to the provincial chief secretaries to determine the assets of TLP. The summary from the interior ministry had recommended a ban on the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan owing to its violent activities in the aftermath of the arrest of its chief Saad Rizvi, which led to the martyrdom of four cops and injuries to more than 300 others.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad earlier, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid announced that the government would also take measures for TLP’s dissolution, saying a separate summary will be moved in the cabinet in this regard tomorrow. He said after the summary’s approval in the next two to three days, a reference will be filed in the Supreme Court for the party’s dissolution.

The minister said the government had “tried its best” to resolve matters through negotiations but TLP’s “intentions were very horrifying. They did not want to step back from their agenda for April 20 at any cost.”

He lauded the services of police and other law-enforcement personnel to restore peace, saying as many as 580 police personnel had sustained injuries and at least 30 cars had been destroyed during the violence.

Read more: Asia Bibi’s Verdict: How the TLP & the rest are reacting

The government had announced it would move to ban the TLP, whose leader had called for the expulsion of the French ambassador, on Wednesday. Saad Rizvi was detained hours after making his demands, bringing thousands of his supporters to the streets in cities across Pakistan.

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