LAHORE - The government has rejected Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan’s demand for halting the crackdown on its activists involved in violence and vandalism during protests against the Supreme Court’s decision to acquit Christian woman Aasia Bibi of blasphemy charges last week.

Protests involving thousands of demonstrators demanding that Aasia be hanged, spearheaded by the TLP, erupted moments after the Supreme Court overturned her conviction on Wednesday. The protesters forced shutdown and roadblocks and damaged public property.

Late on Friday, the PTI government reached a deal with TLP and other groups to end protests with ‘various levels’ of success. On Sunday, the government launched a crackdown on the violent protesters and started making arrests.

A delegation led by TLP Nazim-e-Aala Waheed Noor held a meeting with the government team at Civil Secretariat late on Monday. They raised concerns over countrywide crackdown.

As per insiders, the government stuck to its guns over the ongoing crackdown on protesters showed ransacking public property and damaging public vehicles and motorcycles. The government team, consisting of Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat and senior lawmen, made it clear to the TLP men that miscreants would face the music.

Earlier in the day the TLP threatened to take to the streets if the government “does not enforce the agreement in letter and spirit”.

TLP founder Pir Afzal Qadri, who also used harsh words against state institutions to motivate his followers, said in his video message his group would not “bow to any pressure”. He asked his followers to keep in close liaison with local leadership for timely response to any ‘government atrocity.’

CRACKDOWN ON CRIMINALS

Criminal proceedings are under way and police have been registering cases and arresting the protesters involved in damaging property and harassing citizens during demonstrations.

In Islamabad, cases have been registered against 700 people, 56 arrested and 26 have been remanded. Orders have also been issued to imprison 19 rioters under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO). According to Islamabad administration, 33 rioters have been identified for vandalism during the protests called by the TLP. After the Supreme Court’s Oct 31 judgement acquitting Aasia Bibi, TLP launched countrywide protests, bringing several cities to a standstill for three days.

Another four cases were registered in Attock. At least 17 TLP leaders were charged with violence in Jhelum.. In Karachi, police detained two men on charges of inciting violence and demaging public property. 

A case has been registered against former MNA Aslam Kachela and 300 others in Sargodha, whereas seven people were booked in DIK. Further, 70 rioters have been arrested in Sheikhupura. According to police, the rioters were identified through videos. “In Sheikhupura, the rioters had not only damaged property but clashed and wounded 34 policemen,” officials added.

Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi summoned a report from the FIA, National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) regarding the identities of the rioters.

Earlier, during a meeting chaired by the state minister it was decided that assistance will be sought from the Ministry of Defence to identify the rioters. The government has also established a complaint cell to collect videos of miscreants involved in damaging properties and harassing citizens.

According to the Ministry of Interior, citizens can share pictures and videos of those involved in damaging state and private property by WhatsApping on 0331 5480011. The ministry has assured that the name and number of citizens who share pictures and videos of violent protesters will be kept confidential.

COURT MOVED FOR

COMPENSATION

The Lahore High Court fixed for hearing a petition seeking compensation for people whose properties were destroyed during the protests. The petition filed by a citizen holds the Punjab government responsible for failing to protect properties of citizens and asks that those whose properties, cars, etc have been destroyed or damaged be compensated.