Rawalpindi police in a division-wide crackdown, which was launched on Tuesday night and continued till Wednesday morning, arrested 55 workers of several religious parties, including the Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP).
The crackdown, carried out in Rawalpindi, Attock, Jhelum and Chakwal districts, was launched after a call by religious parties to hold a protest demonstration at Faizabad today [Wednesday].
The protest was announced against the Supreme Court's decision to throw out a review petition against its earlier verdict acquitting Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who spent eight years on death row wrongfully accused of blasphemy.
Although no major reaction was reported across the country in response to the petition being dismissed, reports were received of TLP workers gathering in Karachi, as well as others parts of the country. Subsequently, arrests were made in parts of Punjab and Karachi on Tuesday evening.
A TLP leader, who did not want to be named, had claimed that "many people" were arrested in Karachi.
The TLP today issued a call for a "peaceful strike" to be observed across the country on February 1 (Friday). In a statement, its leader Shafiq Amini said rallies should be taken out against Bibi's acquittal after Friday prayers.
In November 2017, the TLP had held weeks-long protest at Faizabad interchange that virtually paralysed the capital and saw several people losing their lives. The protest came to an end after the government had given in to the demands of protesters. The agreement was signed by the government and the protesters after six people were killed while hundreds were injured during the operation that was eventually suspended.
On Oct 31, 2018, the rightwing protesters under the banner of TLP had once again launched a countrywide protest and sit-ins soon after the apex court had overturned the death sentence awarded to Aasia Bibi by a trial court and upheld by the Lahore High Court.
The protest sit-ins across the country came to an end after the TLP and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI)-led governments in the centre and Punjab reached at an agreement. The PTI government had termed the agreement as a firefighting measure. Later, a country-wide crackdown had been carried out against the TLP and all of its central leadership had been put behind bars.
With additional reporting by Javed Hussain in Islamabad.