Staff Reporter – Islamabad:
Government is to free more than 2,000 jailed activists of a proscribed organisation and allow it to contest elections, under a deal with the government struck to end weeks of violent clashes, negotiators on both sides said.
In return, the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) has agreed to shun the politics of violence and withdraw its longstanding demand to have France’s ambassador expelled over the publication of blasphemous caricatures by a French satirical magazine, they told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
The government banned the TLP after its protests turned violent earlier this year, designated it a terrorist group and arrested its chief Saad Rizvi. The government and the TLP announced at the weekend that they had reached an agreement to help end the clashes, but neither side gave details.
Two members of the TLP’s negotiating team and one from the government side told Reuters that the centrepiece of the deal was to lift the ban and allow the group to contest elections.
“The state has acknowledged that the TLP is neither a terrorist group nor a banned outfit,” another member of the TLP’s negotiating team, Bashir Farooqi, separately told a local news channel.
In addition, the government has agreed not to contest the release of the group’s jailed leader as well as nearly 2,300 activists and to remove their names from a terrorist watch list, the three negotiators said. Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat said that nearly 1,000 of the TLP activists had already been released.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry did not respond to a request for comment.
The settlement came after seven police officers were killed and hundreds more wounded as they confronted thousands of TLP demonstrators marching up the country’s busiest highway.