Banned TLP’s long march: Prime minister to address nation tomorrow

Sheikh Rashid says doors open for talks but no compromise on state’s writ

Prime Minister Imran Khan would publicise the government’s narrative on the ongoing banned Tehreek-i-Labbaik’s (TLP) long march on Saturday, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid has confirmed.

Rashid announced in a presser in Islamabad on Friday that the PM, who presided over a National Security Council meeting on Thursday to strategize regarding banned TLP’s long march, would address the nation tomorrow. He added that the PM would elaborate on the government’s stance on the banned organization’s issue and that he wanted to resolve the crisis, which has disrupted the daily routines of millions.

Meanwhile, a local TV channel reported that PM Khan made it clear that the government would not release banned TLP’s chief Saad Hussain Rizvi, nor would it entertain calls to shut down the French embassy in Islamabad.

A fresh round of talks between the government and TLP have also started as 5,000 to 7,000 workers of the banned outfit reached close to Wazirabad enroute Islamabad on Friday.

In Friday’s press conference, Rashid also confirmed martyrdom of four policemen in Wednesday’s clashes with the TLP workers and called on the protestors to open the Grand Trunk (GT) Road to honour the agreement that was signed between the two sides on Thursday.

As per media reports on TLP’s advances, protestors began their march from Gujranwala and by Friday morning had crossed Ghakkar Mandi. Media also reported that no hurdles were placed on a roughly 26km stretch between Gujranwala and Ghakkar, but Wazirabad’s entrance was blocked with containers and other obstacles.

The government was committed to stopping the marchers from advancing to Chenab River where thousands of Rangers and policemen were deployed. The Rangers warned the protestors with banners 5km ahead of Chenab River, ordering protestors to return home as they were authorized to shoot at troublemakers.

Furthermore, talks between the two sides failed to reach any conclusion on Thursday as both sides stuck to their position. The government wanted the banned TLP’s activists to end the long march peacefully and stop demanding closure of French embassy in Islamabad. The banned organization was, however, assured that their leaders would be released on the condition that the party shunned violence.

The banned outfit has demanded the expulsion of the French ambassador, release of its leader Saad Rizvi, and removal of its other leaders and workers from the fourth schedule.

Rashid and Religious Affairs Minister Noor-ul-Haq Qadri are heading the negotiations with the banned TLP, which include Rizvi, who was shifted to Islamabad from Lahore jail on Wednesday night.