ISLAMABAD: Minister for Interior Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed left for Dubai Thursday reportedly to attend the Sunday cricket match against archrivals India even as Lahore police are on high alert after proscribed Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) resumed protest to put pressure on the Punjab government for the release of its chief, Saad Hussain Rizvi.
The group resumed protests on the eve of Eid Milad un-Nabi by staging a sit-in on Multan Road neighbourhood near its headquarters in Lahore.
Rizvi, son of the late firebrand cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, was arrested in April on charges of inciting his followers and party activists to take the law into their own hands after, according to him, the government had reneged on its promise to expel the French ambassador over the publication of blasphemous caricatures.
His detention was scheduled to end on July 10 in light of a decision of the review board of the Supreme Court. However, the office of the deputy commissioner issued a fresh notification extending the detention for another three months under Section 11-EEE (powers to arrest and detain suspected persons) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.
On August 2, Rizvi, through his uncle, filed another petition with the high court, claiming the government extended his detention with “mala fide intention”. He said it implicated him in 14 criminal cases following his detention.
Through the petition, Rizvi’s uncle asked the court to declare the extension of the detention period illegal and order his release. Two weeks later, on August 17, the court sought replies from the authorities on the request.
Subsequently, on October 1, the court declared as illegal the detention of Rizvi. Following the court order, the Lahore deputy commissioner, Umer Sher Chattha, also issued orders for his release.
However, before the orders could be complied with, the Punjab government on October 11 challenged the Lahore High Court order in the Supreme Court.
During the meeting on Tuesday, where senior TLP leaders delivered fiery speeches and accused the government of using delay tactics in releasing Rizvi, the party announced to launch a new series of protests, without elaborating further.
Meanwhile, Jamaat-i-Islami, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Awami Tehreek of Tahir ul-Qadri have also issued dates for protests. Qadri’s party will organise its demonstration outside Rawalpindi Press Club on October 23 while the JI will march towards D-Chowk in Islamabad on October 31, a copy of the schedule shared on Twitter said.
Before leaving, Ahmed called on Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday at his office to brief him on the law and order, and the political situation in Pakistan. The two also discussed the security situation in Afghanistan, APP reported.
During his three-day visit, the minister would visit the Pakistan Pavilion at Dubai Expo on Friday.
PAKISTAN V/S INDIA MATCH:
Pakistan’s campaign in the T20 World Cup would open with a high-octane against India on Sunday. But cricket tensions between archrivals have been heightened by boycott calls in India ahead of the clash.
A series of killings in occupied Kashmir has set off the anger, even though the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has insisted the national team cannot withdraw from the game.
Decades of bitter rivalry between the neighbours often clouds their cricket encounters. India has largely refused to play bilateral games against Pakistan since 2008, after deadly attacks in Mumbai which India blamed on Pakistan without providing evidence.
Now they only play each other in international events. The last meeting was at the 50-over World Cup two years ago but even that was at the centre of boycott calls.
The government outlawed the hardline religious group in April after it blocked main highways, railways and access routes to major cities, assaulting police and burning public property. Four police officers were killed and more than 500 wounded.
The violence erupted after the government detained Rizvi ahead of a planned countrywide anti-France campaign to pressure the Islamabad government to expel the French ambassador in response to the publication of blasphemous cartoons in France last year.
In subsequent talks, the TLP presented four main demands. They included the expulsion of the French ambassador, the release of Rizvi and around 1,400 arrested workers, lifting the ban on the group and the dismissal of Minister of Interior Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed.
Relations between Paris and Islamabad worsened last year after President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to a French history teacher who was beheaded by an 18-year-old man of Chechen origin for showing cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in a class on freedom of speech.
Protests erupted in several Muslim countries over France’s response to the killing of the teacher. The cartoons were reprinted elsewhere as well.
At the time, the government allegedly signed a deal promising to present a resolution in parliament by April 20 to seek approval for the expulsion of the French envoy and to endorse a boycott of French products.