Conflicts & War

Pakistan releases over 1,000 Islamists after march against French ambassador

Islamabad, Nov 3 (EFE).- Pakistani authorities released more than 1,000 members of the banned Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP), as a part of a recent deal to end the march against the French ambassador over caricatures of Prophet Muhammad, according to official sources Tuesday.

“The government is releasing TLP workers who are not involved in serious crimes or crimes under terrorism laws and has so far released more than 1,000 of them,” an official at the Punjab Home Department told EFE on the condition of anonymity.

The official said the government was releasing TLP workers after a deal with the Islamist group, and another 1,000 of its members would be released over the next couple of days.

On Sunday, the government announced having reached a deal with the banned outfit to stop their march that began on Oct.22 to pressurize the authorities to expel the French ambassador in Pakistan.

These protests left at least nine dead and some 100 injured and their origins go back to November last year, when thousands of people took to the streets against the French president and his support for caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.

The incident came at the backdrop of a teacher being decapitated by his student in France for showing the cartoons of the prophet considered blasphemous – in class.

The Pakistan government accepted demands to expel the French ambassador from the country and cut off bilateral relations, but has since reneged on its promise, according to the Islamists.

“TLP has not backed off from its demand to expel the French ambassador but they agreed it should be resolved through parliament,” Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Ali Muhammad Khan, told EFE.

“I cannot tell you about lifting ban on TLP but I can say they will be allowed to take part in mainstream politics and in return they will abandon the policy of violent protests,” said Ali.

As per Pakistani law, a banned outfit cannot contest elections in the country.

Local media reports suggested TLP Chief Maulana Saad Rizvi will also be released under the latest agreement.

“Our leader is expected to be released soon,” TLP spokesperson Ali Raza told EFE, adding that they would decide whether to call off the march or not after Rizwi was released.

The protesters, marching from Lahore to Islamabad, are currently in Wazirabad.

In April, the federal government banned TLP after its supporters staged three days of violent protests across the country after their leader Saad Rizvi was arrested. EFE


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