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Islamabad administration withdraws orders for arrest of local TLP leaders

Updated November 09, 2018

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Protesters of religiopolitical parties had blockaded roads and highways across the country for three days in protest against the acquittal of Aasia Bibi. — File
Protesters of religiopolitical parties had blockaded roads and highways across the country for three days in protest against the acquittal of Aasia Bibi. — File

The Islamabad district administration has withdrawn orders for the arrest of 19 Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) leaders who were allegedly involved in violence during the three-day protests against the acquittal of Aasia Bibi last week, it emerged on Friday.

According to an earlier Facebook post by the office of the Islamabad deputy commissioner, the district administration had issued warrants for 19 persons, "who were involved in violence and incitement", under Section 3 of the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Ordinance 1960.

According to DawnNewsTV, the orders for the arrests of the 19 local TLP leaders were issued on November 2.

However, Islamabad district magistrate Hamza Shafqaat issued a notification on November 7 stating that all 19 orders issued on November 2 have been withdrawn with immediate effect, "in [the] public interest". A copy of the notification is available with Dawn.com.

The official has informed the interior secretary, the Islamabad chief commissioner, inspector general of police and the Adiala jail administration about the withdrawal of the arrest orders.

Attempts to seek a comment on why specifically the arrest warrants have been withdrawn were unsuccessful, as the deputy commissioner did not answer his phone.

The TLP and other religio-political parties had launched countrywide protests on October 31 after the Supreme Court acquitted Bibi, who had been on death row for the past eight years on blasphemy charges.

Three days later, the government and the TLP had signed a deal to conclude the latter's nationwide protest. One of the major concessions the government agreed to was to "initiate the legal process" to place Bibi's name on the exit control list (ECL).

The government had also assured the party that it would not oppose a review petition filed against the Supreme Court's judgement in the Aasia Bibi blasphemy case. The state further promised to take appropriate legal action to redress any deaths that may have occurred during the protests against the Aasia Bibi verdict and to release all people picked up in connection with the protests starting October 30.

A day after reaching the agreement with the religiopolitical party, the federal government had ordered a “crackdown” against “miscreants” involved in damaging public and private properties and vehicles during the protests.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had later warned that the government would not turn a blind eye to, nor forget, the inciteful speeches made by the protest leaders during demonstrations against Bibi's acquittal.

"No one should have the impression that the government will forgive this behaviour," he had said. "The impression that this government is weak will be removed as we take further action."

It is unclear if the decision to withdraw the arrest orders was taken under the terms of the agreement or due to other considerations.