Govt reschedules press conference on TLP negotiations


The federal government on Sunday first delayed and then rescheduled a press conference regarding its negotiations with the proscribed Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).

According to a handout by the Press Information Department (PID), Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and MNA Ali Mohammad Khan were to originally address a press conference alongside Mufti Muneebur Rehman at 11:15am today.

However, the press conference was delayed, with foreign minister telling reporters at the PID that it would be held “shortly”. The PID later announced that the press conference will now be held at 2:45 pm.

A day earlier, a new negotiating team — led Qureshi and comprising Qaiser and Khan — met TLP leaders while Prime Minister Imran Khan met with senior clerics at his Banigala residence.

On Saturday, the government had resumed talks with TLP, though this time the negotiating team primarily consisted of senior clerics from the Barelvi school of thought.

Almost all senior-most and influential leaders were brought to Rawalpindi and Islamabad. A picture of Mufti Muneebur and Karachi-based industrialist Aqeel Karim Dhedi meeting Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa kept circulating on social media.

According to sources in the TLP, Mufti Muneeb also met the outfit’s incarcerated leader Saad Rizvi in Islamabad.

Despite taking all measures against the banned outfit’s protest march, the government decided to resume talks and brought senior leaders of the organisation, already in the custody, to the federal capital in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Following these renewed efforts, cabinet members also softened their tone, with Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and Adviser to the Prime Minister on Religious Harmony and Middle East Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi restrained from issuing statements against the banned outfit.

Official sources said Saad Rizvi and three senior members of the TLP ‘Shura’ — Maulana Shafiq Amini, Engineer Hafezullah and Pir Inayatul Haq — were brought to Islamabad from Lahore for direct negotiations.

Talking to Dawn, a senior TLP leader said negotiations were the only way forward and everybody wanted a way out of the current situation, however, the behaviour of some cabinet members was irresponsible.

“Why did they brand us Indian agent; the whole nation wants to know who is getting money from the enemies,” the TLP official, speaking from hiding, said, adding that, “we have asked the government to change the negotiating team which does not insult us after the meeting”.

Meanwhile, the TLP acknowledged the meeting in a press statement, saying that a meeting with the government team was held in Rawalpindi. In its second release issued late in the night, the TLP agreed to abide by all assurances it had given the government, including stopping the march in Wazirabad.

TLP continues sit-in in Wazirabad for third day

Meanwhile, TLP workers continued their sit-in at Wazirabad for a third straight day on Sunday. The protesters were camped out at Allah Wala Chowk.

Internet and train services remain suspended in Gujranwala due to the protest, while a heavy police contingent has been deployed at the Chenab Toll Plaza.

About 500 metres from the Chenab toll plaza, the Punjab Rangers have marked a ‘red line’, and put up a notice nearby warning the protesters not to breach the line or face consequences.

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