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Pakistan Takes Radical Islamists into ‘Protective Custody’ After Asia Bibi Riots

Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi freed from jail: lawyer
AFP/AAMIR QURESHI
EDWIN MORA

Pakistani law enforcement took the leader of the country’s hardline Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) Islamist party and dozens of supporters into “protective custody” this weekend. The group orchestrated violent riots in the wake of Christian mother Asia Bibi’s acquittal over allegedly insulting Muhammad.

Fawad Chaudhry, the federal minister for information and broadcasting, wrote on Twitter late Friday night:

Khadim Hussain Rizvi has been taken into protective custody by police and shifted to a guest house. They insisted to come to [Rawalpindi in Punjab province] refusing [the government’s] proposal for alternative arrangements. It’s to safeguard public life, property and order and has to do nothing with Asia Bibi case.

In a separate tweet, Chaudhry said Islamabad attempted to convince the Islamic extremists not to protest “but they refused every offer and started to provoke violence,” adding that the “law shall take its course and it cannot be left to individuals”:

“The TLP has become a continuous threat to the life and properties of the citizens and is doing politics under the guise of religion … the situation is fully under control, people should remain peaceful and fully cooperate with authorities,” he also said in a tweet in Urdu, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reports.

By Saturday, authorities said they had arrested at least 30 of TLP “workers” from various parts of Islamabad since Friday, Dawn notes, adding that police officers revealed they had arrested a total of 374 TLP-linked Islamists from elsewhere in the country, including Punjab province, since Bibi’s acquittal.

Dawn explains:

Law enforcement agencies [Punjab province capital Lahore] launched a massive crackdown against workers of TLP and Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA) on Friday night…Soon after the news of the arrest of the clerics spread, hundreds of activists of the two parties took to the streets and blocked many roads for traffic.

A constable was seriously injured at Multan Road where the violent activists clashed with police.
Following the unrest and severe clashes, Rangers reached Lahore, taking control of city’s major roads. Prior to the agitation, a police officer said, hundreds of trained police commandos and personnel of the anti-riot force were dispatched to the Multan Road after the information that violent activists of the TLP had held a senior police officer — Iqbal Town SP Syed Ali — hostage along with his guards.

TLP is considered the political wing of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah Pakistan (TLYRAP) Islamist group.

Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered Friday’s detentions after the TLP — which threatened to kill Bibi, her lawyer, and the judges who cleared her — urged its followers and supporters to launch more protests.

Islamabad is holding Bibi in an undisclosed location while the court reviews petitions challenging her acquittal under a deal between Khan and the TLP to stop the protests that erupted soon after the court overturned her 2010 death penalty conviction for alleged blasphemy on October 31.

PM Khan also agreed not to block a TLP petition to add the Christian mother of five to a no-fly list.

Australia has joined Italy, Spain, France, and Canada in offering Bibi asylum.

The Brittish Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), which has been relentlessly pushing for Bibi’s release from Pakistan, reports, “Australia decided to be on the right side of history today and in a landmark decision the Hon Peter Dutton has reversed his prior repudiation of asylum for Asia and said that if efforts to grant Asia asylum in Canada fail, Australia will welcome her with open arms.”

Prime Khan has warned agitators, “Do not clash with the state.”

“Do not take us [to a situation] where we are compelled to take [strict] action,” the prime minister declared in a televised speech, referring to protests against Bibi’s acquittal.

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