ISLAMABAD (Rahnuma): Pakistani police Friday night launched a nationwide crackdown on a religious group involved in violent protests against the acquittal early this month of a Christian woman who had faced the death penalty for blasphemy.
Hundreds of activists of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), including its firebrand chief Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi, were picked up from various locales, mainly the northeastern Punjab province, police and party sources said.
Saad Rizvi, a son of Khadim Rizvi, confirmed to Anadolu Agency that his father had been arrested by police in Lahore, Punjab’s capital.
The detainees included other senior party leaders, and over 500 members were also picked up from Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Peshawar, Gujrat, Sialkot, Gujranwala, Multan, and other cities, Saad claimed.
The crackdown follows a recent warning from the powerful army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, that no group or individual would be allowed to plunge the country into chaos in the name of religion, sect, or ethnicity.
Police charged with batons and fired tear gas shells to disperse dozens of TLP members who gathered in the commercial capital of Karachi to protest the crackdown.
No reports of violent protests were reported from any part of the country, as there was a total media blackout on the news.
The TLP emerged as a new political phenomenon last year when it besieged the capital Islamabad against a measure allegedly in favor of the Qadianis or Ahmedis — a minority sect parliament declared non-Muslim in 1974.
The group secured 2.3 million votes in July’s general elections and emerged as the number five party in terms of numbers of votes.
It rocked the country for four days early this month against the acquittal of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who had been on death row. The violent protests ended after the government and TLP reached an agreement which included filing a review petition in the Supreme Court against Bibi’s acquittal and no legal action against the protesters.
Bibi is currently being kept at an unknown location.