Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid has said that the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), which was outlawed over recent deadly rioting in the country, has 30 days to challenge the government move.
“The writ of the state is intact and it is not under anyone’s pressure,” the minister told a news conference on Wednesday, a day after the TLP called off its nationwide protest following a deal with the government negotiated by a group of religious scholars and spiritual leaders.
The politico-religious group was slapped with a ban under anti-terrorism law after its workers rioted during a spontaneous countrywide protest triggered by the arrest of TLP chief Saad Rizvi on April 12. The arrest was made in an attempt to preempt a protest sit-in by the group in the federal capital.
The interior minister denied reports that Rizvi has been released. “He [Rizvi] is still in custody under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act,” he explained. The TLP rioting had led to multiple casualties among the police personnel.
“There are around 210 FIRs registered against TLP activists, including that against its chief, and they would go through the due process of law,” Rashid said, adding that 699 of the 733 people detained during the protests under the Maintenance of Public Order had been released.
He added that the protesters had burnt 30 vehicles and returned five of the cars they had seized.
On the police officials abducted by the protesters, the minister said 12 personnel had returned on the night of April 19.
Rashid added that the TLP had 30 days to submit its reply to the government after being designated as a proscribed group. “The writ of the state is intact and it is not under anyone’s pressure.”
He said the agreement reached between the government and the TLP states that the state would decide matters relating to bilateral ties and not a group or an individual.
Rashid elaborated that social media played a pivotal role in the protests as fake accounts instigated people to join them.
“At least 0.2 million accounts were being used from India and they thought that we would remain unaware,” the minister said. “A thorough study is being carried out to determine the future course of action on social media.”
On the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) list, the minister said the government had managed to secure 24 of the 27 points to avert being blacklisted by the global financial watchdog. “But our enemies want us on the blacklist,” he added.
The minister also noted that a National Assembly session was summoned on April 20 to debate whether or not to expel France’s ambassador as demanded by the banned TLP. He added that a committee would be formed to decide the issue.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan will take Western leaders into confidence over the importance of the finality of Prophethood,” said Rashid.
The minister also spoke about former premier Nawaz Sharif, saying that he had had a detailed discussion with the British envoy on the issue. “I told British High Commissioner Christian Turner to deport Nawaz Sharif, as he has been declared a proclaimed offender by the court,” Rashid added.
He recalled that Turner had told him that both governments wanted to talk on the matter, but did not give “a very positive response”.