ISLAMABAD: Government on Monday opened negotiations with banned Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) after they freed 11 police abducted during week-long anti-blasphemy protests against France in which four officers were killed, the interior minister said. Most main businesses, markets, shopping malls and public transport services were closed in major cities in response to a strike call by the banned Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) and its affiliated groups.
The police officers were abducted during clashes outside banned TLP headquarters in Lahore, which according to the group also killed its three members.
Photographs of the police officers, with their heads, legs and arms heavily bandaged, were posted on social media by their captors.
"They've released the 11 policemen they had held hostage," Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said in a video statement.
He said negotiations with the banned TLP were under way.
"There have been two rounds of the talks and there will be another later in the evening," Religious Affairs Minister Noor-ul-Haq Qadri told parliament. "We believe in negotiations and reconciliation to sort out issues."
The government outlawed the TLP last week after it blocked main highways, railways and access routes to major cities, assaulting police and burning public property. Four police officers were killed and more than 500 wounded.
The violence erupted after the government detained TLP leader Saad Hussain Rizvi ahead of a planned countrywide anti-France campaign to pressure the Islamabad government to expel the French ambassador in response to the publication of cartoons.
The TLP has presented four main demands in the talks with the government, officials from both sides said.
They included expulsion of the French ambassador, release of the TLP leader and around 1,400 arrested workers, lifting the ban on the group and the dismissal of the interior minister.