–Hardline preacher taken into ‘protective custody’ during Lahore raid
–Nationwide crackdown against Labbaik underway as LEAs round up over 537 workers
–State acted after TLP’s refusal to postpone its Nov 25 protest, says interior ministry
LAHORE: Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi has been arrested after the government ordered law enforcement agencies to begin a countrywide crackdown on the far-right religious outfit, the Ministry of Interior confirmed late on Friday night.
Rizvi’s family later confirmed to media that the police had taken him into custody. His son Saad added that the TLP district leaders accompanying his father were also arrested from his hujra.
According to details, Rizvi was arrested in a joint operation by the city police, Elite Force and Dolphin Force at the Yateem Khana Rehmatallil Alameen Mosque after an approval by the federal cabinet. SPs of Iqbal Town and Saddar areas commanded the operation.
The law enforcement teams initially took Rizvi and other TLP others to Nawankot police station and then transferred them to an undisclosed location, sources said, adding that the firebrand cleric had threatened to call a nationwide protest against his arrest.
During the operation, stones were pelted at the police team by Rizvi’s followers, who also assaulted the officials. Sources said Punjab Rangers have also been called in to control the law and order situation of the province.
A similar crackdown took place in Ferozwala in the DSP torture case where the TLP allegedly broke section-144, according to the FIR.
TLP spokesperson Pir Ejaz Ashrafi said they have received reports of arrests of a number of party workers from various parts of the country. The operation against TLP — aimed at foiling its public rally-cum-protest scheduled for November 25 — is underway in all major cities, including Lahore and Rawalpindi, sources said.
The TLP had planned a public rally at Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh to ‘honour’ its martyrs on November 25. In November last year, the TLP had paralysed the country’s capital for nearly four weeks when it staged a sit-in at Faizabad Interchange against the alleged changes in the oath of lawmakers. The protests ended when the previous PML-N government signed an agreement with the TLP leadership and decided that November 25 will be observed as ‘Martyrs Day’.
When contacted, the Ministry of Interior said the action was taken after the TLP leadership ignored repeated requests made by the government and local administration to postpone the Nov 25 rally in view of the recent surge in the acts of terrorism across the country. “Not only did they refuse blatantly, but also resorted to their typical coercive techniques of causing damage to life and property,” it added.
The planned protest of TLP at Faizabad and the resulting action by the state to take them into protective custody have nothing to do with the Aasia Bibi case, the ministry clarified.
Inside sources say the law enforcement agencies have arrested as many as 537 TLP workers till the filing of this report, including placing Pir Afzal Qadri under house arrest. They added that the LEAs plan to round up about 2,000 members of the religious party.
Although Punjab information and law ministers have expressed ignorance of the fact, sources confirmed that a full-scale operation is underway across the country.
Moreover, media reports say around 100 police personnel have been deployed at Faizabad interchange where the TLP had last year staged a 20-day long sit-in.
Later on, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Twitter that Rizvi has been shifted to a ‘guest house’. “They insisted to come to Rawalpindi refusing government’s proposal for alternative arrangements,” he tweeted
Khadim Hussain Rizvi has been taken into protective custody by police and shifted to a guest house.They insisted to come to Rwp refusing Governments proposal for alternative arrangements
It’s to safeguard public life, property and order and has to do nothing with Asia Bibi case
— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) November 23, 2018
Govt did it best to convince them but they refused every offer and started to provoke violence. Public is requested to stay peaceful n calm State is responsible to defend finality and respect of Holy Prophet PBUH. Law shall take its course and it cannot be left to individuals.
— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) November 23, 2018
Fawad requested the people to stay peaceful as “law shall take its course and it cannot be left to individuals.”
The religious party, founded in 2015, burst onto the scene after the government carried out Mumtaz Qadri’s death sentence in 2016.
In November 2017, TLP followers blocked Islamabad’s main road protesting against the PML-N-led government’s alleged attempt to amend the “finality of Prophethood” constitutional clause.
Agitators clashed with LEAs forcing the army to step in to curb the violence.
After the Faizabad sit-in, the TLP staged a three-day long protest following the acquittal of Aasia Bibi by the Supreme Court. During the protest, the demonstrators termed the chief justice “liable to be killed” and called for a rebellion against the army chief “because he is a non-Muslim”. The protest defused after the PTI government and TLP brokered a deal.
This makes it twice the federation capitulating to Rizvi’s demands, giving him prominence in the religious sphere.
Subsequently, the top court had to take a suo motu of the protests and directed the federal and provincial governments to submit a report in this regard.
Moreover, the TLP also managed to translate its religious rhetoric into votes as it bagged at least 4 per cent of the total votes in the last general elections. The party’s count was only 300,000 votes less than its heavyweight rival Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an old five-party alliance.
With additional input from Shahab Omer