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April 21, 2021

Series of events that led to recent TLP protests

Top Story

April 21, 2021

LAHORE: The PTI government first gave its commitment to TLP leadership to decide about the expulsion of French ambassador or otherwise through Parliament on November 17, 2020 by signing an agreement which saw the lifting of six-day TLP sit-in at Murree Road Rawalpindi.

The TLP had been waging a series of protests in its anti-France protests across the country and demanding expulsion of French ambassador and sever diplomatic ties with Paris for over a month after French President Macron openly patronised the blasphemous sketches. Macron took the offensive stance to display huge blasphemous sketches on government buildings, angering the entire Muslim world.

According to the four-point agreement with TLP, the government was bound to take a decision from the Parliament regarding expulsion of the French ambassador within three months, recall its ambassador to France, release all the arrested TLP workers, not register any case against TLP leaders or workers even after the sit-in was called off.

The TLP chief Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi died on November 20, 2020 just after three days of the agreement and his eldest son Hafiz Saad Hussain Rizvi succeeded him as party ameer.

In the first week of February 2021, two weeks before the end of the deadline (Feb 17), TLP Shoora led by Saad Rizvi called the workers to prepare for marching on Islamabad on Feb 17. The government sent a delegation led by religious affairs minister Noorul Haq Qadri to negotiate and as a result, TLP extended the deadline by one month allowing the government to debate the issue of expelling French ambassador in Parliament.

However, the government again sought an extension from the TLP in its deadline, holding negotiations with the leadership early March 2021, this time supervised by Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid Ahmad. The TLP again extended the deadline to April 17. But in the second week of April, Saad Rizvi again gave a call to the workers to prepare for holding a march on Islamabad on April 20, 2021as the government was not making any effort to honour its agreement.

Responding to the call, the federal cabinet discussed the issue and according to press reports, Prime Minister Imran Khan directed Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri to engage TLP leadership to find other peaceful ways and means to resolve the issue or postpone its sit-in at Islamabad.

On April 12, 2021, the government suddenly arrested Saad Rizvi while he returned from leading funeral prayers of a trade leader, despite the fact that eight days were left in the expiry of the deadline, sparking a wave of protests across the country that saw clashes between the police and protestors, leaving over two dozen people dead including four policemen and hundreds wounded including over one hundred policemen.