The Pakistan government on Saturday announced that the hardline Islamist leader who had led protests against the acquittal of blasphemy charged death row convict Asia Bibi, has been arrested.
“Khadim Hussain Rizvi has been taken into protective custody by police and shifted to a guest house,” PInformation and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry tweeted.
The Minister said that Rizvi’s Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party had insisted on holding a protest in Rawalpindi and rejected alternative arrangements offered by the government, reports Efe news.
“(The arrest is) to safeguard public life, property and order and has to do nothing with Asia Bibi,” Chaudhry added.
Party leader Afzal Qadri said that the police had detained members of his party across the country, and called for fresh protests, local media said.
TLP protests almost paralysed the country in October and the beginning of November after the Supreme Court annulled Bibi’s death sentence – first imposed in 2010 and upheld four years later by the Lahore High Court – and ordered her release.
The protests continued until the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan reached an agreement with the TLP in which it allowed them to file a petition with the Supreme Court against the acquittal and ban Bibi from leaving the country until the verdict was heard.
Bibi was released from prison on November 7 and transferred to a “safe” location, according the government. Her lawyer fled the country in fear for his life.
The TLP was founded in 2016 after the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, who was found guilty of killing former Punjab province governor Salman Tasir in 2011 for publicly defending Bibi.
The party secured two seats in the provincial assembly of Sindh in the general elections held on June 25.
Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy law was established during British colonial rule to avoid religious clashes, but several changes to the law in the 1980s promoted by the then-military dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq, led to its abuse.