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ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: An anti-terrorism court (ATC) on Tuesday declared Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Maulana Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the cleric behind last year’s sit-in at the Faizabad interchange, a proclaimed offender.

An official of Aabpara police station told the court that last month police had pasted a proclamation on the wall of the seminary of Maulana Rizvi and at a famous intersection, besides pasting a notice in Nawankot police station, asking Maulana Rizvi to surrender within 30 days. But the cleric has not surrendered despite the expiry of the deadline.

The ATC judge then declared Maulana Rizvi and some other leaders of the TLP, including Maulana Inayatullah and Sheikh Azhar, proclaimed offenders.

Addressing supporters outside Data Gunj Bakhsh shrine in Lahore, TLP chief gives govt 24-hour deadline to deliver on its promises

Earlier, the court had issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Maulana Rizvi and his associates after they failed to respond to various summons issued to them.

Several FIRs have been registered against Khadim Rizvi and his associates on the complaints of a man whose ailing child had died on way to a hospital amid the road blockade by TLP supporters, a concerned citizen and some media persons.

The sit-in continued for about three weeks in November 2017 and ended only after the army brokered a deal between the TLP and the federal government.

Later in the day, Maulana Rizvi appeared outside the shrine of Data Gunj Bakhsh in Lahore where his supporters had gathered since Tuesday night.

Addressing a small but spirited gathering of his followers, he accused the federal government of going back on its word and gave it a 24-hour ultimatum to release TLP workers and withdraw cases against them or risk a countrywide protest.

He said the government had backed off from the 11-point agreement reached during the Faizabad sit-in as it had neither released TLP workers arrested during the protest nor withdrawn cases against them. Similarly, he added, the government had neither arrested those who had changed the text of declaration about the finality of Prophethood (to be made by election candidates with their nomination papers) nor made Raja Zafarul Haq-led committee’s report on the issue public. “The entire agreement stands violated,” he said.

“We give the government time till Wednesday afternoon to deliver on its promises,” he said and warned: “If the government does not meet the deadline or open talks with us, sit-ins would start throughout the country.”

According to a police official, the government was in touch with Maulana Rizvi for easing him and his supporters out of the city. About the arrest of the cleric, he said the first priority right now was to remove the protesters without creating further inconvenience for the city residents. “The matter of arrest can be taken up later,” he said.

Pir Zubair of the TLP claimed that “thousands of protesters” had reached the spot and more and more were arriving.

But police believed that the number of the protesters was between 300 and 700 because people kept coming in and going out. “Last night, the numbers were around 150 when the protest started. It swelled to around 500 later at night before dropping to some 300 in the morning. It increased again when Khadim Hussain Rizvi arrived here on Tuesday afternoon,” a police official said.

Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2018