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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Will the government sign one more agreement with TLP?

At least two people were killed and several others, including policemen, injured when violence erupted in major cities of the country on Monday. Will the government sign an agreement with the TLP?

Massive traffic jam is being witnessed on several roads of Karachi and Lahore due to protests staged by Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) on different routes of the major cities.  According to details, hundreds of vehicles have stuck in traffic due to the closure of several Karachi roads.

The traffic jam was observed at Shahrah-e-Faisal, University Road, Gulistan-e-Johar, Baldia, Tower, I.I Chundrigar Road, Johar Mor, Drigh Road, M.A Jinnah Road, Liaquatabad, Nazimabad, and other adjacent areas of the megacity.

Hundreds of vehicles including ambulances were stuck for hours with emptied fuel tanks on the roads, increasing the miseries of the citizens and rescue teams attempting to reach homes and hospitals.

On the other hand, at least two people were killed and several others, including policemen, injured when violence erupted in major cities of the country on Monday afternoon following the arrest of TLP chief Allama Saad Hussain Rizvi, a day after he demanded that the federal government expel the ambassador of France over blasphemous caricatures.

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. 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.

TLP’s agreements with the government

TLP has a long history of signing agreements with the sitting governments. In 2018, in an interesting and major breakthrough, the government and TLP reached to an agreement to end three-day long protest across the country. The government gave some concessions to the protesters and urged them to call off the protest which had paralyzed urban centers for last three days. According to the details, the government had agreed to initiate legal process to place the name of Asia Bibi on the exit control list (ECL).

The government also agreed not to oppose a review petition to be filed by the TLP against the verdict. It was further agreed that the government would release all the persons arrested in connection with the ongoing protests. Interestingly, the TLP, in turn, apologized if it “hurt the sentiments or inconvenienced anyone without reason”.

The agreement was signed by Dr. Noorul Haq Qadri (religious affairs minister) and Raja Basharat (law minister Punjab) on behalf of the government, and by Pir Muhammad Afzal Qadri (senior leader of the TLP) and Muhammad Waheed Noor (central chief Nazim of the TLP).

It is important to mention here that after the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted Ms. Asia Bibi, supporters of the TLP took to the street and main roads in Lahore, Islamabad, and Karachi and sealed off the cities. The leaders of the TLP and other religious parties reportedly demanded the resignation of the Prime Minister, the Judges who were part of a three-member bench, and suspension of the verdict of the top court.

Again in 2020, the TLP late announced that the government had accepted all its four demands and called off its sit-in. A spokesman for the TLP released a copy of the handwritten agreement carrying signatures of Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noorul Qadri, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah, and the deputy commissioner, Islamabad.

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

The agreement said that the government would take a decision from the Parliament regarding the expulsion of the French ambassador within three months, would not appoint its ambassador to France, and release all the arrested workers of the TLP. The government would not register any case against the TLP leaders or workers even after it calls off the sit-in.

The new agreement with TLP in the offing?

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.