Government faces flak over TLP deal 

Protesters rally in Karachi on Thursday, November 1, to condemn a Supreme Court decision that acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, who spent eight years on death row accused of blasphemy. (AP/File)
Updated 08 November 2018
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Government faces flak over TLP deal 

  • Opposition criticism moves for sending out wrong message to protesters
  • Deal ended days of violence in Pakistan following Aasia Bibi’s acquittal

ISLAMABAD: Criticizing Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government for agreeing to a five-point deal to end the protests of the past few days, the opposition said on Thursday that the move sends out the wrong message by encouraging anyone, who doesn’t agree with the law of the land, to hold the country ransom to it.
Leading the protests were supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a far-right party objecting to the Supreme Court’s verdict last week to acquit a Christian woman accused of blasphemy. The deal included a pledge to have Aasia Bibi, 51, placed on the country’s Exit Control List, among other conditions.
Objecting to the move, opposition member Sherry Rehman, from the Pakistan People’s Party said that the entire nation “was at a standstill” for the past few days. “If we start to examine [what prevailed], they [the federation] will say ‘This was also done before; the state entered a similar agreement last year as well,” she said.
Reasoning that the opposition didn’t intend to “taunt or challenge” the government, she questioned what kind of a message was being sent out by striking a deal with demonstrators after the government had failed to protect its citizens. 
Khan had earlier said in a televised speech that the state would protect people’s lives and properties, adding no vandalism or traffic chaos would be allowed.
But around 1,200 people have been arrested and more than 135 cases of vandalism have been registered. 
Political analyst and former ministerial adviser Mosharraf Zaidi said Khan should have not spoken with such confidence if he was not going to follow through on his instructions.
“It sends a message that the PTI is not interested in being a dominant political force for the next generation,” Zaidi told Arab News, rather the ruling party is “interested in welcoming the TLP as a mainstream political force.”
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry defended the decision to strike a deal, telling a foreign channel: “We need to take steps against extremism…we need to come up with a permanent solution. This is just firefighting…our government is committed to the cure.”
But one analyst, former military man Amjad Shuaib, said the government was wise to accede to the TLP’s demands. 
“Public perception would have turned against PTI because those that were defending the message of the Prophet are being assaulted,” he said.
The agreement could have been better and improved upon, Shuaib told Arab News. Given the circumstances, such as the religious spin of the demonstrations, any standoff would have had a devastating effects on the ruling party, he said.


Several injured in explosion at mosque in Chaman

Updated 21 November 2018
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Several injured in explosion at mosque in Chaman

This story is developing...