LAHORE: The Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) has warned of paralysing the country within hours if the Supreme Court sets Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, free. The TLP directed its local leaders across the country on Friday to start holding sit-ins within hours without waiting for a decision by the central leadership, if she is freed.
“Judges’ remarks have sown doubt among the party leaders and fears that she would be released soon,” Pir Afzal Qadri, patron-in-chief of the TLP, said while addressing a rally taken out to protest the possible acquittal of Aasia Bibi.
Reading out a four-point resolution approved by the party leadership, he said the possible acquittal would be deemed an attack on Islam, the Constitution and blasphemy law. Responsibility for the subsequent law and order situation would rest with the judges, the government and all institutions supposed to protect the Constitution, he warned.
“The central leadership has already decided about a countrywide protest and local leaders should not wait for any message from the central leadership and start their sit-ins immediately,” Mr Qadri said, adding that these “nationwide sit-ins should continue till all those responsible for [Aasia Bibi’s] release are punished, even if the central leadership is incarcerated or killed”.
A number of TLP workers gathered on The Mall in Lahore and other major cities in the country, including Karachi, Multan and Gujranwala, to “pre-empt the acquittal”. Police, unlike previous rallies, did not block Charing Cross till the last moment and even when the rally arrived at the venue, the road was blocked by the party workers who dragged barriers put up to block access to the Punjab Assembly building and encircled the crossing.
Addressing the rally later, firebrand TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi not only seconded the decisions announced by Mr Qadri but also took on the judiciary, inviting the judges to a debate on the blasphemy law and its violations on television.
He concluded his speech by asking the workers to be ready for nationwide sit-ins. “Stay ready and wait for Tuesday when another important announcement would be made,” he said.
In Karachi, the TLP held a big rally warning the government against showing any flexibility in cases pertaining to blasphemy. The participants of the rally demanded the execution of Aasia Bibi and action against those pursuing a campaign in her favour.
Hundreds of participants marched from Hasan Square to Numaish intersection where leaders of the party addressed the rally. Traffic on main University Road and then on M.A. Jinnah Road remained badly affected.
The TLP leaders asked Prime Minister Imran Khan to come up with a clear policy on blasphemy laws and satisfy the people who had voted him to rule under the Constitution.
The charged participants of the rally on motorbikes, buses, cars and pickups chanted slogans vowing to protect the blasphemy law.
A TLP statement said the rally was part of its countrywide movement against the “possible acquittal of blasphemy convict Aasia Bibi”.
“There is a growing campaign for the release of Aasia Bibi and the recent steps coupled with statements from the people of the ruling party suggest that the government is considering a kind of relief for Aasia Bibi,” said Allama Razi Hussaini while addressing the rally.
Published in Dawn, October 13th, 2018