Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

The development follows last week’s agreement between the government and the TLP that the party will suspend its march to Islamabad.

Pakistan says it has lifted a ban on a far-right party behind violent anti-French protests last month that caused clashes with police, leading to the deaths of six officials and four protesters.

The development follows a agreement reached last week between the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan and Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) that the party would halt its march to Islamabad.

The march was called for the closure of the French embassy in the Pakistani capital.

The Interior Ministry lifted the ban late Sunday, saying the move was in the “greater national interest” amid assurances the party would not succumb to violent activity in the future.

The protest march to Islamabad, which began on October 22, was also intended to demand the release of the party’s leader, Saad Rizvi, who was arrested a year ago, as well as thousands of its members detained in a crackdown on the march from Lahore to Islamabad.

TLP was banned a year ago amid violent rallies over the publication of caricatures of Islam’s prophet Mohammed in France.

The party began demanding the expulsion of the French envoy in October 2020 when French President Emmanuel Macron tried to defend the caricatures as freedom of expression.

Macron’s remarks came after a young Muslim beheaded a French schoolteacher who showed caricatures of the prophet in class.

The images were republished by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to mark the opening of the trial over the deadly 2015 attack on the publication of the original caricatures.

This angered many Muslims who believed that those depictions were blasphemous.

Pakistan’s move to lift the ban on TLP has provoked criticism on social media.

TLP supporters have yet to formally announce the end of their march and numerous protesters are still sitting along a highway in the city of Wazirabad.

Authorities said last week that they had released more than 1,000 detained TLP supporters and that a process was underway to release Rizvi.

Rizvi’s party gained prominence in Pakistan’s 2018 election, with a campaign on the single issue of defending the country’s blasphemy law, which requires the death penalty for anyone who insults Islam.

Pakistan’s military would inform lawmakers later Monday about the current security situation in the country.

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