Zahid Hussain Khan, Islamabad
Updated: April 16, 2021 06:48 AM GMT
Policemen beat a Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan supporter during a protest in Lahore on April 13 against the arrest of their leader after he demanded the expulsion of the French ambassador over depictions of Prophet Muhammad. (Photo: AFP)
Pakistan has banned a hardline Sunni politico-religious group known for its violent support of the country’s draconian blasphemy laws.
A notification issued by the Ministry of Interior on April 15 said the decision had been taken as the “federal government has reasonable grounds to believe that Tehreek-e-Labbaik is engaged in terrorism, [has] acted in a manner prejudicial to the peace and security of the country, involved in creating anarchy in the country by intimidating the public.”
The notification states that Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) was engaged in acts that “caused grievous bodily harm, hurt and death to the personnel of law enforcement agencies and innocent bystanders.”
It was also accused of blocking essential health supplies to hospitals “and has used, threatened, coerced, intimidated and overawed the government, the public and created a sense of fear and insecurity in the society and the public at large.”
The ban came three days after TLP supporters took to the streets across Pakistan following the arrest of leader Saad Hussain Rizvi.
Rizvi was taken into custody after he insisted on leading his supporters to Islamabad for another round of sit-ins in protest against the government’s failure to honor last year’s agreement which had called for the expulsion of the French ambassador over publication of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.
We had information that TLP had very dangerous designs this time
The government asked TLP to call off its protest and start negotiations.
TLP accused the government of backtracking from its commitment regarding taking up the matter in parliament.
In a press conference, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said two policemen were killed and another 580 people were wounded during attacks by TLP mobs in several cities.
“We had information that TLP had very dangerous designs this time,” he said.
Soon after the issuance of the notification, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority barred all television channels and FM radio stations from providing any airtime to the party.
In another development, a government official shared a handwritten note of the detained TLP leader in which he asked his followers to end road blockages and cooperate with security agencies.
"I, Hafiz Saad Rizvi, son of [late] Khadim Hussain Rizvi, with complete clarity of mind and without any force, appeal to all the central leadership and workers of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik that in the interest of the nation and the public good, please do not take any illegal steps,” reads the statement.
TLP rose to prominence over its opposition to the acquittal of Catholic woman Asia Bibi
"All protest rallies and road blockages must immediately be brought to an end. All workers must disperse peacefully and head on to their respective homes and fully cooperate with law enforcement agencies."
TLP rose to prominence over its opposition to the acquittal of Catholic woman Asia Bibi and execution of Mumtaz Qadri, a government bodyguard who had assassinated liberal governor Salman Taseer.
Taseer was shot dead by Qadri after he called for the release of Bibi and denounced the misuse of blasphemy laws.
The group paralyzed Pakistan for days after the Supreme Court ordered the release of Bibi on charges of blasphemy.
TLP contested the 2018 general elections and went on to win seats in three provincial assemblies.
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