Civil, military leadership on same page and notification of DG ISI appointment has refuted all speculations, 

says Sh Rashid 

ISLAMABAD   -   Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Tuesday said that the government was ready to accept all demands of banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) except for closure of French embassy in Islamabad and its ambassador over publication of blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). 

The minister said that there was a deadlock between the government and the religious party over this single demand and requested the TLP leadership to withdraw from it in the larger interest of the country.

Addressing a press conference on a third consecutive day here at the Ministry of Interior, Sheikh Rashid said that the government even couldn’t take the issue of expulsion of French ambassador to the parliament, as agreed earlier with the TLP, as this would open another Pandora’s box.

He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a high-level meeting on the issue of TLP’s protest that was attended by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Director General (DG) Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen Faiz Hamid, DG Military Operations (MO), and DG Military Intelligence (MI) besides senior officials of police and administration of Punjab and Islamabad. “The meeting of civil and military leadership has agreed that the government would meet all their (TLP) demands except closure of French embassy in Islamabad and expulsion of the ambassador.”

“We have no reservations on all the commitments made with TLP except the issue of closure of the embassy,” he said adding that TLP had assured to reopen both sides of the road in Muridke, where the protestors were staying, till Tuesday midnight, but failed to fulfil the promise.  

The interior minister said that it would create a lot of problems for Pakistan if the government met the TLP’s “top most demand” of closure of embassy and expulsion of ambassador.

Conspiracies are being hatched against Pakistan for being the biggest nuclear force among Muslim countries besides we are facing bad economic conditions, he said.

He also said that France was leading the Europe, and all European countries were supporting it and the closure of its embassy would lead to closure of all embassies of European countries in Islamabad

Sheikh Rashid said that he would contact with the TLP leadership twice, on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, to convince them to surrender from their top most demand. He said that this was the sixth protest sit-in that the TLP had been holding since 2017. “We want peace which is the need of the hour,” he said adding that the country was facing other problems such as inflation.

He said that TLP had given another call of protest on November 2 if their demand of expulsion of ambassador was not met. He added that if the government even resolved all their issues (demands) except one, even they would hold protest. “We don’t want any chaos that would have dangerous effects on security of the country, its economy and its international relations,” he said.

He also said that an Islamic Foreign Ministers Conference was also scheduled to be held in Pakistan in coming days and there should not be such an atmosphere that would create a bad taste.

He requested TLP chief Saad Hussain Rizvi and the party’s shura to reconsider their top most demand as the government had reservations on it. He said that the government was ready to accept all other demands including lifting a ban on the TLP, removal of names of its activists from Fourth Schedules, the federal list of suspected militants, and release of its workers.

Responding to a question, the interior minister said that the opposition would not join the government if they even took the matter of expulsion of French ambassador to the parliament. “This is because we want them (TLP) to revisit their demand.” “We want to resolve the issue with mutual agreement.”  

He also said that all rumours have put to rest with the notification of appointment of new DG ISI and Pakistan’s elected government, its Armed Forces and Prime Minister Imran Khan were on the same page.

Since October 19, the TLP had been protesting to pressurize the government to release its leader Rizvi and to except its other demands including expulsion of French ambassador to Islamabad. On last Friday, the banned group had started protest march from Lahore to Islamabad and its supporters had camped in Muridke, a city about 55 kilometers from Lahore, when the government started talks with it and pursued it not to proceed further.