The Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry gave a stern warning to the TLP protestors, urging them to return home. The National Security Committee (NSC) held on Friday lauded the professionalism and restraint shown by police, despite being targeted directly by the TLP protestors.
On Friday, the government issued a stark warning that it has had enough while acknowledging that Punjab Police have suffered multiple casualties, including four martyrs and over four hundred injured.
“The state’s restraint should not be seen as a sign of weakness,” a press release issued by the NSC read.
“I am telling the protestors to return home. I am telling their families: call your people home. The state will not stop at anything to assert itself,” Chaudhry stated in a presser after the meeting.
The minister went on to warn that “No mob can stand up to the state,” while revealing that the government would be taking all possible measures to put any further violence at halt.
“The civilian and military leadership are like one clenched fist on this issue,” he stated.
Chaudhry further stated that the state did not wish for blood to be shed in the streets. Therefore, urged the banned outfit’s members to return home.
Chaudhry added that the state can not be “blackmailed” by this “mockery”.
He further revealed that the state has asked the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to sit on the negotiation table, while adding that the protestors should now consider the state “weak”, as “Pakistan has defeated terrorist organisations before.”
Later, a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) was convened by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday to discuss the law and order situation across the country in the backdrop of the violent demonstrations by the workers of the proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TLP).
The meeting was attended by relevant members of the federal cabinet, national security adviser, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee chairman, all three services’ chiefs, DGs of ISI, IB and FIA, and senior civil and military officers.
The prime minister stressed that no group or entity will be allowed to cause public disruption or use violence to pressure the government. Taking serious note of the unprovoked violent attacks committed by TLP members, the committee resolved not to tolerate any further breach of law by this proscribed group.
The committee praised the police for their professionalism and restraint despite being directly targeted and suffering casualties, including four martyred and over four hundred injured, but warned that the state’s restraint should not be seen as a sign of weakness.
While emphasising that the government recognises the right of peaceful protest of all Pakistanis, committee members were unanimous that TLP is deliberately employing violence against public property, state officials, and ordinary citizens to create instability in the country and that this shall not be tolerated. All organs of the state stand ready to act as per the law to protect the life and property of citizens.
The prime minister and committee members expressed condolences at the loss of life of policemen and committed to compensating and looking after their families. Commending the exceptional performance of the law enforcement agencies, the prime minister assured that the government will firmly stand behind them as they act to enforce the law and protect the public.
The committee took notice that no previous government or prime minister had taken such an unequivocal and public international stance on the issue of Namoos-e-Risalat and Islamophobia. Under the current government, Pakistan has successfully brought these issues to the fore of international diplomatic discourse in the United Nations, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and European Union, among other fora. One key objective of establishing the Rehmatul-lil-Alameen Authority is also to intellectually counter international propaganda against Islam.
Participants decried TLP’s misuse of religion and the issue of Namoos-e-Risalat for political gains, which was misleading the common man and creating internal discord within society. TLP’s violence has ended up furthering the agenda of sectarian elements and external enemies of the state.
Participants recalled that TLP has adopted the ploy of violent street agitation on numerous occasions since 2017 and made unrealistic demands each time, solely as a tool to gain political strength. In the process, TLP’s actions have caused public disorder, serious economic losses to the country, besides boosting the morale of other terrorist outfits seeking to challenge the state’s writ.
The committee unanimously resolved to guard its sovereignty from all internal and external threats and to not allow TLP to challenge the writ of the state in any way. Participants endorsed the government’s decision to negotiate with the group only within the bounds of law, without offering leniency for any crimes committed by TLP operatives. Endorsing the view of the committee, the Prime Minister instructed that all measures and actions necessary to enforce the law and protect the interests of the state and public shall be ensured.
Addressing the media following the meeting, Minister for Interior Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said that fresh negotiations between the government and the detained chief of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party are underway to end the proscribed group’s long march towards Islamabad.
Rasheed said the government seeks to resolve the matter “amicably” and acknowledges it has plunged several cities of Punjab into a crisis for the last two weeks. He added that the government is still willing to negotiate, however, the writ of the state will be established.
“We have not closed the doors on the dialogue process, however, the writ of the state also needs to be maintained.”
The minister hoped that the issues can be resolved amicably. “The government has to ensure the safety of lives and property of the people as well,” he stated.
Thousands of members of the group are gathered since last Friday on the GT Road, just outside Lahore, with a series of demands including the release of their imprisoned leader.
On Friday morning, they began marching towards Islamabad after a series of deadly clashes with police the previous evening.
The government has said it would agree to most of the group’s demands, including freeing Saad Hussain Rizvi, but would not agree to formally expelling the French ambassador.
Rasheed announced Khan would address and take the nation into confidence on Saturday about the current security situation. The prime minister will “present the entire situation before the nation and his speech will explain the government’s narrative [on the dispute],” he added.
“[Federal Minister for Religious Affairs] Noor-ul-Haq Qadri and I will hold talks with the proscribed TLP,” he said.
The minister said so far four policemen have been killed in clashes with protestors, while more than 80 have been injured, eight of them are in critical condition.
He asked the protesters to clear the roads, warning them if issues are not settled amicably, nothing will be under his control.
Responding to a question about TLP’s demands, Rasheed said a resolution has been presented before the National Assembly, without eloborating further.
To another question about the expulsion of the French ambassador, he said the ambassador has returned a while ago and the “whole world knows about it”.
He said the government will take all possible steps to ensure peace and tranquillity in the country.
Meanwhile, security forces have cordoned off major roads to prevent protesters from reaching Islamabad, even digging trenches in some places to halt the advancing mob, as the protests by members of the banned outfit entered their eighth day today (Friday), with protesters camping out in Kamoke.