ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s minister for religious affairs Pir Noor ul Haq Qadri confirmed on Tuesday an agreement between the government and a radical religious party, the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), saying a decision to expel the French ambassador from Pakistan as demanded by TLP would be taken by parliament and the government would implement whatever the assemblies decided.
Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan, which led thousands of protesters to Islamabad for a sit-in on Sunday, released a copy of an agreement with the government on Monday night, saying it was calling off its protest after the government had agreed to meet all its demands, including that it would expel the French ambassador from Pakistan within three months.
“The decision regarding French ambassador in Pakistan will be taken by parliament as it is the biggest forum and voice of the people,” Qadri told Arab News. “The decision of the parliament will be implemented by the government.”
The Pakistani foreign office and the French embassy in Islamabad could not be reached for comment.
The TLP-led protesters arrived on the outskirts of Islamabad on Sunday night, calling for the government to end diplomatic ties with France against the printing of images depicting the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
Muslims around the world have protested against France and President Emmanuel Macron, who has vowed to stand firm against what he has described as attacks on French values and freedom of expression by radicals.
TLP said the three other demands met by the government were that Pakistan would not appoint a new ambassador to France, it would work to boycott all French goods at the official level and also release all arrested supporters of the TLP.
“We don’t have any ambassador in France at the moment and have decided that we will not send one soon,” Qadri said.
On boycotting French goods officially, Qadri said many Pakistani businesses had already shunned them in their personal capacity.
“Now the government has decided to talk to all chambers of commerce across the country for boycott of French products at the national level,” he said, adding that the government had also released all arrested members of TLP as per Monday night’s agreement.
The interior ministry issued a notification on Monday ordering the release of all TLP supporters arrested during the past two days. At least 400 people were arrested just in Rawalpindi on Sunday, Geo News reported.
Talks between the government and the protest leaders were ordered by Prime Minister Imran Khan, the religious affairs ministry said.
On Sunday, police fired teargas on stone-pelting protesters in clashes in which dozens of policemen and protesters were injured, Dawn newspaper said.
The protesters, who numbered in the thousands, had sent up camp at the Faizabad Interchange, which connects major highways between the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
Rawalpindi’s 24 entry points were sealed with shipping containers and as many as 16 entry points into Islamabad also blocked. There was no mobile phone service in Rawalpindi and Islamabad since late Saturday night and all through the day on Sunday.
The TLP had vowed it would continue its protests until Islamabad announced cutting all diplomatic and economic ties with Paris.