The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday reserved its verdict on bail pleas filed by Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan chief Khadim Rizvi and former TLP patron-in-chief Pir Afzal Qadri, and rejected an apology submitted by Qadri over incendiary remarks made by him during a protest against the Supreme Court's acquittal of Aasia Bibi.
Rizvi and Qadri were taken into "protective custody" by the state during a crackdown in November 2018 after the TLP announced it would observe martyrs’ day on Nov 25, 2018. The arrests followed weeks after the TLP led three-day protests across the country against Aasia Bibi's acquittal.
The lawyers from both sides completed their arguments before the two-member bench headed by Justice Qasim Ali Khan today.
Court rejects Qadri's apology
The LHC had, in a May 7 hearing, directed Pir Afzal Qadri to submit a "detailed apology" for his controversial remarks after it found his initial public apology missing some key details.
When asked to define the "harsh words" Qadri had admitted to using in his apology, his lawyer Hafeezur Rehman Chaudhry said that according to the court record, the former TLP leader had said that the three judges [who acquitted Aasia Bibi] were liable to be killed, that Prime Minister Imran Khan is a Zionist agent and that the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Javed Qamar Bajwa's orders were not to be accepted.
Qadri, who had been booked under sedition and terrorism charges, had resigned from the TLP on May 1 citing health issues and, on the court's earlier directions, issued a public apology for his remarks.
"When the verdict of the Aasia Masih case was pronounced, my religious sentiments were hurt and I delivered a speech. I am very sorry for hurting the sentiments of the government, the judiciary and the chief of army staff," he had said.
At the outset, the court directed Qadri's lawyer to provide a straightforward written apology or accept a decision based on merit. Both judges raised questions over various aspects of the apology as it was shared with the court.
Justice Qasim, taking a critical view of the apology, said this way anyone could issue treasonous statements whenever they like, and then try to apologise by claiming that they were not thinking straight at the time.
"Why are they [such people] nurtured in laps, why are they not sent to psychiatric hospitals?" he asked.
Justice Asjad Javed Ghural pointed out that the written apology submitted in court used the word mansoob for the remarks issued by Qadri.
"Why did the written apology use the word 'attributed'?" he asked the lawyer, noting that it amounted to manipulation of language.
When Qadri's lawyer told the court that the education of many children had been impacted by the proceedings against his client, Justice Qasim wondered "what education must this man provide?"
"Such pirs should be hanged. They are ruining society," Justice Qasim remarked.
The state prosecutor and lawyers for Rizvi and Qadri all concluded their arguments regarding the two suspects' bail pleas today.
The state prosecutor opposed granting bail to the TLP chief and former party leader.
"It seems as though this person is beset by frustrations," Justice Qasim stated, without referring to anyone by name. "It is unfortunate that our pulpits have been surrendered to such people."
The judge then asked to be shown a Hadith that was written during a speech delivered by Khadim Rizvi.
The TLP chief's lawyer told the court: "It is not being suggested that this statement was issued by Khadim Rizvi."
"If [you think] he didn't say this, we will play the CD for you tomorrow," Justice Qasim retorted.
Prosecutor Ehtesham Qadir told the court not to examine the speeches made by the TLP chief and then TLP patron-in-chief on a case-by-case basis.
He informed the judges that the Punjab Safe City project had provided a video of the speeches, which was then sent for forensic examination, including a voice recording test which revealed that the voice on record was Rizvi's.
As the arguments concluded, the court reserved its judgement in the case until May 13.