Islamabad (November 03, 2018): Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has said that the Pakistan government’s recent agreement with the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) to end days-long countrywide protests was “firefighting, not a cure”.
Protests had erupted in several cities after the Supreme Court on Wednesday acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian woman on death row since 2010 when she was convicted on blasphemy charges. The protests paralysed routine life in major cities, causing severe road blockages in major cities and resulting in severe mobility issues for citizens.In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on Saturday, Chaudhry said that using force against protesters was not the preferred method for the government to deal with the demonstrations.
“We had two options: either to use force, and when you use force people can be killed. That is not something a state should do… We tried negotiations and (in) negotiations you take something and you leave something,” he said.
But Chaudhry defended his government against allegations it was bowing down to extremists. He said his government was committed to coming up with a permanent solution to tackle violent protests in the country.
“We need to take steps against extremism, we need to take steps against such kind of violent protesters and we need to come up with a permanent solution. Right now this is not a cure. This is firefighting, what we are doing. The cure is the real thing and our government is committed to the cure.”
He said that the courts would decide whether or not to put Asia Bibi on the Exit Control List (ECL). He said the PTI government would “take all steps necessary” to ensure her safety in Pakistan.
Earlier in the day, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi and senior leader Afzal Qadri were booked on Saturday on charges of rioting and disrupting peace in various parts of Lahore.Police said 500 people, including Rizvi and Qadri, have been booked in 11 cases. The suspects face charges of disrupting peace and blocking roads, police said.
During the three-day protest across the country, a number of vehicles and properties were destroyed in protest of the Supreme Court order acquitting Asia Bibi of blasphemy charges. Main intersections and roads were also blocked in major cities, resulting in severe mobility issues for people.
Several mainstream religious parties had also held separate demonstrations in major cities following the Jummah prayers, with thousands of demonstrators converging near government offices in Islamabad.Earlier, the Tehree-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) called of its countrywide protest sit-ins late Friday night following reaching of an agreement with the federal and Punjab governments.
Addressing a press conference in Lahore, Patron in Chief TLP Peer Muhammad Afzal Qadri said that his party had reached a five-point agreement with the government while some verbal points were also agreed upon to call off the sit-in.
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The agreement was signed among Federal Minister Religious Affairs Sahibzada Dr Noor ul Haq Qadri, Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat, Patron in Chief Tehreek e Labbaik Pakistan Pir Muhammad Afzal Qadri and Markazi Nazim e Aala TLP Muhammad Waheed Noor.
On October 30, nationwide protests erupted against the acquittal of blasphemy accused Aasia Masih, aka Aasia Bibi, by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.“I am thankful to all Muslims who have played their part to ensure respect for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH),” said TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi while urging his followers to disperse peacefully.
“You have made an example and lesson for our generations to come about what it means to respect the Holy Prophet (PBUH),” he added.
The five-point agreement says that a review petition against the Supreme Court judgment has already been filed which is a constitutional right of the complainants – and the government would have no objection to it.According to the agreement, Tehreek e Labbaik Pakistan has the legal right to file a review petition against the acquittal of Aasia Bibi and the government would not object to the review petition.
The government would take measures to put Aasia Bibi’s name on the Exit Control List immediately.
Immediate legal action will be taken on deaths, if any, in the movement against the acquittal of Asia Bibi.The government would immediately release all those arrested during protests on October 30 and afterwards.
Tehreek e Labbaik Pakistan apologized to the nation for causing inconvenience or hurting the sentiments during the sit-in.
Tehreek e Labbaik Pakistan leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi directed TLP workers to disperse peacefully.
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The agreement bears the signatures of Religious Affairs Minister Sahibzada Dr Noorul Haq Qadri, Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat, Pir Muhammad Afzal Qadri, patron-in-chief TLP, and Muhammad Waheed Noor, central Nazim-e-Aala TLP.
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