–Religious parties had announced demonstrations against SC verdict of dismissing review petition against Aasia Bibi’s acquittal
RAWALPINDI: Rawalpindi police launched a crackdown and arrested 55 workers of a number of religious parties including the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP).
The operation was launched on Tuesday night and continued till Wednesday morning in Rawalpindi, Chakwal and Jhelum districts in response to calls by the parties to organise a demonstration at Faizabad.
The religious parties had announced a demonstration rejecting the Supreme Court’s Tuesday verdict wherein it had dismissed review petition against Aasia Bibi’s acquittal.
A number of TLP workers were arrested in parts of the country after reports emerged that party workers were gathering to protest.
A TLP leader has claimed that a number of people were arrested in Karachi as well.
On October 31, 2018, the apex court had acquitted Aasia Bibi, who was facing a death sentence for blasphemy, and ordered to release her from prison immediately. The acquittal had led to countrywide protests by the TLP headed by Khadim Rizvi and other radical Islamist parties.
After three days of the massive demonstrations, the government and Labbaik reached an agreement, with the government vowing not to oppose review plea in the case. However, the government then initiated a countrywide crackdown against those involved in vandalism and arson during the protests. Approximately 1,800 individuals were arrested and charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). However, the government later announced that it would not make any further arrests and even exonerated TLP from the violent incidents.
Subsequently, a review petition was filed on November 1, 2018, at the Lahore Registry of the apex court, urging the SC to reconsider its decision.
The petitioner had also sought the placement of Aasia’s name on the Exit Control List (ECL) till the judgement is reviewed.
In the petition, it was argued that the SC’s acquittal of Aasia Bibi did not meet the standards of jurisprudence as well as Islamic provisions and the “normal principle of justice with reference to application in blasphemy laws”.
The blasphemy allegations against Bibi date back to June 2009. She was working in a field when she was asked to fetch water. Muslim women labourers objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch the water bowl.
A few days later the women went to a local cleric and put forward the blasphemy allegations.
In 2017, workers of TLP and activists of other religious groups camped at the Faizabad Interchange in Islamabad against the hastily-abandoned change in the oath of elected representatives, virtually paralysing the twin cities for more than two weeks.
The three-week-long sit-in at the Faizabad Interchange had ended only after an agreement was signed between the government and the protesters, in which the government conceded to most of the protesters’ demands, including that of removal of the then law minister Zahid Hamid.