Lahore, April 19
The banned radical Islamist party Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) on Monday released 11 police hostages after the first round of talks with the Imran Khan government, which buckled under the pressure of the terror outfit over its demand to expel the French ambassador over a blasphemous caricature published in France last year.
After declaring the TLP a proscribed outfit under terrorism laws and freezing its leadership’s bank accounts last week, the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government had announced there would be no talks with the terror outfit as the state would not allow it to challenge its writ.
However, after Sunday’s clash between the law enforcement agencies and the TLP workers in Lahore in which 11 policemen and Rangers were taken hostage by the radicals, the government held talks with the outfit leadership on Monday.
Pakistan Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed in a video message said, “Talks have started with the TLP. It has released 11 policemen who were taken hostage and kept at its headquarters in Lahore. The first round of talks with the TLP went well and the second will take place in the evening.” The minister hoped the rest of the matters would be resolved with the TLP in the second round of talks.
Meanwhile, business centres, markets and public transport in Lahore, Karachi and some other parts of the country remained closed on Monday on the call of senior cleric Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman to condemn the “brutal” police action at the TLP headquarters in Lahore on Sunday that left three Islamists dead and several injured.
The TLP has announced a protest march to Islamabad on Tuesday if the government does not expel the French envoy.
In Monday’s talks with the government, TLP leaders presented four demands — expel the French ambassador, release its party chief Saad Rizvi, revoke the ban on TLP, and release all its activists (over 3,000) and withdraw FIRs against them. The party warned that if their demands were not met, they would go ahead with their march to Islamabad.
“On the assurance that Prime Minister Khan will review TLP demands and there will be no further police action against those camping in Lahore, the Islamists freed the hostages,” said a senior police officer. Thousands of Islamists are camping on the Multan Road outside the TLP headquarters.
After the release of the 11 law enforcers, their pictures were released to the media. As per the pictures, most of them had head injuries. PTI