–LHC releases firebrand clerics against surety bonds of Rs5m each, days after Aasia Bibi reaches Canada for asylum
LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday granted bail to Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi and former TLP patron-in-chief Pir Afzal Qadri in a case registered against them for launching a violent protest against the acquittal of Aasia Bibi from blasphemy charge, days after the Christian woman reached Canada to start a new life there as a political refugee.
The two firebrand religious leaders have been granted bail against surety bonds worth Rs5 million each.
Qadri, who had been booked under sedition and terrorism charges, had resigned from the TLP on May 1, citing health issues and, on the court’s earlier directions, issued a public apology for his remarks.
The two-member bench, comprising Justice Qasim Ali Khan and Justice Asjad Javed Gharal, granted the bail to both till July 15.
At the last hearing, the court had rejected an apology submitted by Qadri over incendiary remarks made by him during a protest against the Supreme Court’s acquittal of Aasia Bibi. The lawyers from both sides had completed their arguments before the two-member bench.
Rizvi and Qadri were taken into “protective custody” by the state during a crackdown in November 2018 after the TLP announced it would observe martyrs’ day on Nov 25, 2018. The arrests followed weeks after the TLP led three-day protests across the country against Aasia Bibi’s acquittal.
Civil Lines police had registered an FIR under sections 290/291/353/427/186/188 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and section 6 of the Sound System Punjab Ordinance 2015 against Rizvi and other leaders of the TLP for protests after Aasia Bibi was acquitted by the Supreme Court in October last year. Section 7 of Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 was later added to the FIR.
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 Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz-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.