Religious Affairs Minister Pir Noor-ul-Haq Qadri has said that a 12-member committee has been formed to talk to the proscribed Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and the government.

After attending a meeting of the state officials and religious scholars belonging to the Barelvi school of thought, with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair, Qadri told media on Saturday night that the committee is in talks with the government as well as the leadership of the proscribed TLP.

A team of 19 religious scholars, led by Pir Qadri met Prime Minister Imran Khan. However, the senior clerics, all of whom were Barelvi, objected to the presence of Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi in the meeting, after which he left. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, who was on his way to Banigala, was also told not to come as the delegation had objected to his presence as well. His announced press talk was also cancelled.

The interior minister, meanwhile, participated in the meeting, but did not talk about it and referred the matter to the religious affairs minister.

When contacted, Fawad said he was not invited to the meeting. He said the announcement made by the PID regarding his news conference was mistakenly released as the presser was in fact scheduled by Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, but was later done by the religious affairs minister.

Pir Qadri said religious leaders expressed the resolve to settle the matter peacefully.

He said the premier told the meeting that the government has always welcomed meaningful and serious talks.

The prime minister also told the ulema that their suggestions would also be considered, the federal minister said.

“The committee is in talks with the TLP leadership, and we hope they can move forward,” he added.

Earlier, a delegation of ulema had reached the prime minister’s residence at Bani Gala late Saturday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the TLP leadership said that Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman met the jailed leader Saad Rizvi in Islamabad.

Despite taking all measures against the banned outfit’s protest march, the government decided to resume talks and brought senior leaders of the organisation, already in the custody, to the federal capital.

It is learnt that three senior members of the TLP Shura, Maulana Shafiq Amini, Engineer Hafezullah and Pir Inayat-ul-Haq, were brought to Islamabad from Lahore for direct negotiations.

The TLP, in the meanwhile, acknowledged that a meeting with the government team was held in Rawalpindi. In its second release issued late in the night, the TLP agreed to abide by all assurances it had given to the government, including stopping the march in Wazirabad.

SUNNI ITTEHAD: Sahibzada Hamid Raza, the president of the Sunni Ittehad Council (Faisalabad), said the prime minister had assured the meeting that the government would not use “torture” against the protesters.

He said the prime minister told the meeting that he did not wish to see bloodshed in the country, but noted that there would be “no compromise when it comes to the writ of the state.”

“We urge the protesters not to resort to violence […] as negotiations are underway in different parts of the country,” Raza said.

When asked whether the protest was a constitutional right, he said that the protesters should remain where they are and not move forward as it might sabotage the negotiations.

“Wait a little more since you have already waited this long,” he told the protesters.

Raza refused to go into details about the negotiations, as he said that it might lead to confusion.

Those who met with Prime Minister Imran included Sunni Tehreek president Sarwat Ejaz Qadri, Sunni Ittehad Council president Sahibzada Hamid Raza, Jamaat-ul-Saaleheen chairman and Pir of Sultan Bahu Pir Khalid Sultan Bahu, Pir of Bharchundi Sharif Pir Abdul Khaliq, Milli Yakjehti Council chairman Dr Abul Khair Mohammad Zubair, Sahibzada Hamid Saeed Kazmi, Pir of Manki Sharif Pir Mohammad Amin, Pir of Kot Mithan Pir Khawaja Ghulam Qutub Fareed, Pir of Sial Sharif Nizam Siyalvi, Sahibzada Hafiz Hamid Raza, Mufti Wazeer Qadir, Pir of Sharaqpur Mian Jalil Ahmed Sharaqpuri, Pir of Bengali Sharif Makhdoom Abbas Bengali, Pir of Basahan Sharif Syed Ali Raza Bukhari, Wafaqul Madaris Al Islamia president Sahibzada Hussain Raza, Pir of Sundar Sharif Habib Irfani, Pir of Sodhra Syed Zia Noor Shah, Pir of Sial Sharif Qasim Siyalvi and Pir of Sultan Baho Jhang Sahibzada Sultan Ahmed Ali.

The story was filed by the News Desk.
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