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Pakistan lifts ban on extremist group Tehreek-i-Labbaik

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The Pakistan government has lifted the ban on the extremist group Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) as a quid pro quo to the outfit calling off the recent anti-government protests that claimed the lives of over 20 people, half of them police personnel.

The TLP was declared as a proscribed organisation in April this year after violent protests by the group to force the government to expel the French ambassador over the issue of blasphemous cartoons published in France.

The government, which recently struck a secret agreement with the TLP, on Sunday issued a formal notification to remove the hardline Islamist party from the list of proscribed organisations after the TLP committed to behave and follow the law in future.

“In exercise of the powers conferred under sub-section (I) of Section 11U of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 (as amended), the federal government is pleased to remove the name of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan from the First Schedule of the said Act as proscribed organisation for the purpose of the said Act,” reads the notification, which has been seen by the PTI.

The TLP launched protests on October 18 from Lahore and announced to march to Islamabad to force the government to expel the French ambassador and release the chief of the outfit Saad Rizvi.

At least 21 people, including 10 policemen, lost their lives during fierce confrontation between the TLP workers and law enforcement authorities in recent days.

After the bloody clashes, the group had reached Wazirabad town on the Grand Trunk Road when a “secret agreement” was reached with the government on October 31.

Though the agreement was not revealed, sources said that it included a commitment by the government to lift the ban on the TLP which was imposed in April this year after similar violent demonstrations.

The notification stated that the TLP had been placed in the First Schedule as a proscribed organisation by the federal government on April 15 this year on the recommendation of Home Department of Punjab.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had on Saturday approved the revocation of the ban on TLP.

It is expected that the government may also release Rizvi to satisfy the TLP and convince it to send back its hundreds of workers who are still sitting at Wazirabad and waiting for their leadership to decide if they should go home or re-launch the protest.

However, it is not clear if the government has given any commitment regarding expulsion of the French ambassador which was the key demand by the TLP.

The government had already released more than 2,000 activists of the TLP before the lifting of the ban and the group would now be free to take part in all sorts of political activities.

However, it has set a bad precedent and future governments would be vulnerable to extremist groups and their bullying.

The TLP was established in 2015 and has held at least six protests over the years, mostly against the alleged desecration of the Prophet.

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