TEHRAN (Iran News) – Eleven Pakistani police officers, who were taken hostage by supporters of a banned group during street protests in Lahore, have been released, authorities said. Supporters of the right-wing Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) had allegedly taken the officers captive on Sunday as part of their campaign to get the French ambassador expelled from Pakistan.
A video of the hostages as they were being released circulated on social media, showing some of the officers bloodied and bruised with bandages around their heads.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said the police officers were released early Monday following “negotiations” with the TLP, which was labeled a terrorist organization by the government last week.
The TLP was banned after its supporters took to the streets to protest against the arrest of their leader Saad Rizvi. The protests turned violent on Sunday and the TLP leaders said several of the party’s supporters were killed in the clashes.
Six police officers have also been killed in conforntations with TLP supporters.
The interior minister confirmed that the “first round” of talks with the TLP had been “successful,” adding that a second round would take place later on Monday in an attempt to settle “the rest of the issues.”
The far-right group launched an anti-French movement and set April 20 as the deadline for the French ambassador to be expelled from Pakistan after President Emmanuel Macron defended the Charlie Hebdo magazine’s cartoons insulting Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Prime Minister Imran Khan clarified on Saturday that the party had been banned for its violent methods rather than its hardline ideology.
“Let me make clear to people here & abroad: Our govt only took action against TLP under our anti-terrorist law when they challenged the writ of the state and used street violence & attacking the public & law enforcers,” he tweeted.Protests have been raging on across Pakistan since the TLP leader, Rizvi, was detained in Lahore after calling for a march in Islamabad.