LAHORE - A Lahore High Court (LHC) division bench Tuesday granted bail to Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi and former TLP patron-in-chief Pir Afzal Qadri in a terrorism case registered for launching a violent protest against the government.

In order to avail the bail, the bench headed by Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan directed both the leaders to submit surety bonds of Rs500,000 each.

The bench announced the verdict that it had reserved last Wednesday after hearing the final arguments of the parties on post-arrest bail petitions of both leaders.

During the arguments, the prosecution had opposed the bail petitions saying that the violent protests led by the TLP leaders caused Rs300 million losses to the public and private properties. The prosecution further argued that they also created a great sense of fear among the citizens.

In its order, the LHC bench remarked that the court could not found any direct material whether the speeches delivered by Khadim Hussain Rizvi were meant to entice his followers to create any blockage anywhere in the country or the petitioner screamed his followers to burn, occupy or destroy the public property.

Both leaders directed to submit surety bonds of 0.5m each

However, as per the order, the bail application filed by Pir Afzal shall remain pending and be fixed for hearing on 15-07-2019.

“On the said date the petitioner (Afzal Qadri) shall appear before this Court along with entire record relating to his treatment during this period and bail application will be finally decided thereafter,” the order says.

During the May 8 hearing, Prosecutor Ehtesham Qadir informed the court not to examine the speeches made by the TLP chief and then TLP patron-in-chief on a case-by-case basis.

He said the Punjab Safe City project had given a video of the speeches that were later sent for forensic examination, including a voice recording test which showed that the voice on record was of Khadim Rizvi.

The state prosecutor said that it was clear from video record of their speeches that they tried to incite people against the state institutions including army and judiciary.

On the other side, the defence counsel representing Pir Afzal Qadri submitted an apology and requested the bench to grant bail to him.

The counsel also submitted that bail may also be granted to Khadim Hussain Rizvi as he was no longer required for investigations.

Despite various question marks put by the judges on the written apology submitted by Afzal Qadri, the court granted the TLP leaders post arrest bail.

The apology was submitted by Qadri over his remarks he made during a protest against the apex court’s decision to acquit Aasia Bibi of the blasphemy charges on the LHC.

“When the verdict of the Aasia Masih case was pronounced, my religious sentiments were hurt and I delivered a speech. I am very sorry for hurting the sentiments of the government, the judiciary and the chief of army staff,” he said.

Giving his critical view on the apology, Justice Qasim had said that in this way anyone whenever they like could give treasonable statements and subsequently try to apologise by saying that they were not thinking straight at the time of making such statements.

Justice Asjad Javed Ghural said the word mansoob had been written for the statement issued by Qadri in the written apology submitted in the court. He questioned: “Why did the word ‘attributed’ was used in the written apology?” However, the court granted them bail despite the critical remarks on the written apology.

In November 2018, both the TLP leaders and a number of TLP activists had been taken into protective custody during a crackdown after the TLP announced it would observe martyrs’ day on November 25, 2018. The arrests came weeks after the TLP-led three-day nationwide protests against Bibi’s acquittal by the Supreme Court of Pakistan .

Police had registered an FIR Under Section 290/291/353/427/186/188 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 and section 6 of the Sound System Punjab Ordinance 2015 against the TLP leaders. They were accused of leading violent protests against the acquittal of Bibi of blasphemy charge by apex court.

The TLP and other religious parties’ workers had taken to the streets and blocked major roads and intersections through sit-ins against the apex court verdict in different parts of the country.