—FIA, PTA directed to investigate ‘propaganda’ inciting hate on social media
–Normalcy returns to country as Labbaik suspends nationwide protests against Aasia Bibi’s acquittal
LAHORE: A day after normalcy returned to the country as Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) “suspended” its nationwide protests against Aasia Bibi’s acquittal following an agreement with the government, TLP chief Khadim Rizvi, senior leader Pir Afzal Qadri were among 500 others who have been booked on Saturday on charges of rioting and disrupting peace.
As per the details, at least 500 TLP leaders and supporters, including firebrand cleric Khadim Rizvi and Afzal Qadri, have been booked in 11 different cases under charges of causing agitation among the masses, blocking roads and vandalism in Lahore.
Two cases have also been lodged in the federal capital on charges of damaging public and private properties as well as violating section 144.
The development came after the Interior Ministry announced taking action against all those “miscreants, who under the guise of peaceful protests, caused destruction to public and private properties and harmed helpless citizens” during the three-day protests.
“Steps are being taken to identify these miscreants,” a statement issued by the ministry of interior said.
Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry also said the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) cybercrime wing and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) have been directed to investigate “propaganda” circulated on social media to incite hate.
“Additionally, the chairpersons of the cybercrime wing and PTA have been instructed to obtain the forensic data of the miscreants,” it said in a separate statement.
The Interior Ministry will also initiate criminal proceedings against all those who spread extremist and hateful propaganda on social media, the statement added.
Earlier, the country welcomed a tentative return to normalcy following the agreement between TLP and the government after three days of violent protests that choked various cities and throttled economic activities.
In Islamabad and Karachi, traffic returned to normal after protesters ended sit-ins and road blockages were removed over the night.
Life returned to normalcy in Lahore as well, after the largest group of TLP supporters wrapped up their protests late Friday night. Road blockages that had crippled the city have been removed and traffic has now begun to flow unimpeded. Public schools also re-opened, though attendance remained thin on the first day.
According to reports, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA), a faction of the TLP, is still holding out and has continued its sit-in at Data Darbar.
Protests in Peshawar had ended soon after the deal between the TLP and the government was finalised on Friday night. Road blockages around the city have also been removed.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman had headed a rally in Peshawar on Friday, but ended it after his address. He was scheduled to join the TLP camp later but was advised by police not to follow through due to security risks.
In Quetta, though religio-political parties had held rallies, no sit-ins had been reported.
The countrywide demonstrations by TLP and other religiopolitical parties, which erupted on Wednesday after the Supreme Court announced acquitting Aasiya Bibi, had left major highways — including the motorway connecting Lahore and Islamabad — blocked and routine life paralysed in major cities.
Mobile services in major cities had also been suspended.
The protests had come after Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a forceful rebuke to the TLP in a nationally-televised address in the ruling’s wake, saying the government would not tolerate violent protests.
On Friday, the government and the TLP had signed a deal to conclude the latter’s nationwide protest. One of the major concessions the government agreed to was to “initiate the legal process” to place Aasiya Bibi’s name on the ECL [Exit Control List].
The state had also assured the party that it would not oppose a review petition filed against the Supreme Court’s judgement in the Aasiya Bibi blasphemy case.
The government further promised to take appropriate legal action to redress any deaths that may have occurred during the protests against the Aasiya Bibi verdict and to release all people picked up in connection with the protests starting October 30.
The TLP, in turn, only offered an apology “if it hurt the sentiments or inconvenienced anyone without reason”.