Police on Friday resorted to tear gas shelling and baton charge to disperse protesting activists of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in Karachi, officials and witnesses said.
At least 50 TLP workers were detained as the protesters demonstrated against the Supreme Court's recent decision to uphold the acquittal of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who spent eight years wrongfully accused on death row in a blasphemy case.
Following a protest call issued by the party, several TLP workers first started gathering at Sharfabad signal near Bahadurabad soon after Friday prayers.
DIG East Amir Farooqi told Dawn that police had already asked the party to desist from holding any protests.
The officer claimed that the religious party's workers pelted stones on moving vehicles, damaging the windows of many of them. They also allegedly damaged a police mobile.
“The police used baton charge and tear gas to disperse them,” he said.
DIG Farooqi confirmed that a total of 50 TLP workers were arrested after the violent protest was brought to an end.
“The police will register a case against them under Section 7 of the Anti Terrorism Act (ATA) over charges of terror and rioting as they resorted to pelting stones, and damaged private and public vehicles,” the senior official revealed.
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In addition to Friday's arrests, DIG Farooqi said 22 TLP workers were arrested from Korangi and six others from Gulistan-i-Jauhar area on Thursday night.
Police sources revealed that 12 more TLP workers were detained in the city's West zone on Friday morning.
Separately, around 1,500-2,000 activists of TLP also held a protest outside the Karachi Press Club (KPC) which resulted in prolonged traffic jams on the adjoining roads.
Artillery Maidan SHO Agha Aslam Pathan said no untoward incident was reported and the protesters dispersed from KPC peacefully.
Meanwhile, a TLP spokesperson told Dawn that the party had planned a "peaceful" protest march from Bahadurabad to KPC but that the police subjected their workers to "executive highhandedness" to foil their protest.
"However, hundreds of workers reached the press club and held a peaceful demonstration," he added.
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Police sources revealed that Sindh Home Secretary Abdul Kabir Kazi had today issued several orders, including the detention of TLP workers for 30 days under Section 3 (1) of the West Pakistan Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) of 1960.
According to the detention order, the TLP members were “in the habit [of] harass[ing] the general public and instigating mobs against the honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan in the judgment of Aasia Bibi case and challenging the writ of the state by blocking public thoroughfares, damaging public property and creating panic among the masses”.
Therefore, the TLP workers, if not detained under the relevant law, will “create [an adverse] law and order situation and cause harassment amongst the general public, which will become [a] potential danger to public peace”, the orders issued by the home secretary said.
The orders further stated that the Sindh Inspector General of Police Dr Syed Kaleem Imam had recommended to the Sindh government to detain TLP workers for 30 days under MPO 1960.