Info minister calls govt-TLP agreement ‘firefighting, not cure’


–Use of force never preferred method to deal with protesters, Chaudhry argues


ISLAMABAD: Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Saturday called the agreement between the federal government and Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) “firefighting”, admitting that it is “not a cure to malady of extremism”.

In an interview with the BBC, Chaudhry said, “Right now this is not a cure. This is firefighting, what we are doing. The cure is the real thing and our government is committed to the cure.”

“We had two options: either to use force, and when you use force, people can be killed. That is not something a state should do… We tried negotiations and (in) negotiations you take something and you leave something,” he added.

The government’s spokesperson argued that use of force against protesters was not the preferred method for the government to deal with the demonstrations.

When asked whether the PM Imran Khan-led government had bowed down to the far-right political groups, the info minister defended the agreement. “Our government was committed to coming up with a permanent solution to tackle violent protests in the country,” he said.

Chaudhry admitted that the government would be working on a long-term strategy to deal with such incidents in the future.

“We need to take steps against extremism, we need to take steps against such kind of violent protesters and we need to come up with a permanent solution,” he added.

The minister’s remarks came a day after the government reached a written agreement with leaders of the nationwide sit-ins.

Widespread protests had erupted in the major cities after the Supreme Court on Wednesday acquitted Aasiya Bibi, a Christian woman on death row since 2010 when she was convicted on blasphemy charges. The protests paralysed routine life in parts of the country and caused severe road blockages in major cities, resulting in severe mobility issues for citizens.

Despite PM Khan’s stern warning to agitators against challenging the state earlier in the week, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government reached a five-point agreement with the TLP late Friday night to end the protests.

According to the five-point agreement, the government would not object to the review petition filed against Aasiya Bibi’s acquittal by the top court and the legal process to place her name on the Exit Control List (ECL) would be initiated immediately. Also, the deaths (if any) which took place during the course of protests, would be investigated as per law and the government would release all protestors arrested since October 30. Moreover, TLP also apologised for the inconveniences caused because of the protests.