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Pakistan Lifts Ban On Radical Party Behind Deadly Protests

Supporters of the Islamist political party Tehrik-e Labaik Pakistan (TLP) carry flags and placards during a protest in Karachi on October 24.

The Pakistani government has revoked a ban on a radical Islamist party behind a protest march toward Islamabad that has triggered deadly clashes with police.

The Interior Ministry lifted the ban on Tehrik-e Labaik Pakistan (TLP) late on November 7, saying the party will now be allowed to participate in mainstream politics in the "larger national interest."

The move came days after the TLP and the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan reached a secret agreement to end a 10-day -- and at times deadly violent -- march to the capital calling for the expulsion of France’s ambassador and the release of the party's jailed leader.

The protest march saw supporters clash with police at several points along the way. At least five police officers and four demonstrators were reported killed.

Under the secret deal with the government, the TLP abandoned its plan to march on Islamabad from the eastern city of Lahore and promised not to stage violent protests in future, according to officials.

The Dawn newspaper reported that TLP leader Saad Rizvi was expected to be released from custody later on November 8.

Rizvi was arrested in April amid violent demonstrations against France linked to the publication of political cartoons depicting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

The radical Islamist group, which gained prominence in 2017, has a history of staging violent protests to pressure the government to accept its demands.

In Pakistan’s 2018 elections, it campaigned on the single issue of defending the country’s blasphemy law, which calls for the death penalty for anyone who insults Islam.