An anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Lahore granted bail to several leaders of the banned Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) on Saturday in several cases registered against them.
Those who were granted bail included Maulana Farooqul Hassan, Ghulam Ghaus Baghdadi, Pir Zahirul Hassan, Maulana Sharifuddin, Engineer Hafeezullah Alvi, Maulana Abdul Razzaq, Mohammad Badar Munir, Qari Ashraf, Mohammad Akbar, Muzaffar Hussain, Mohammad Umar and Muzammil Hussain.
The court directed all the TLP leaders to submit bail bonds of Rs100,000 each.
The hearings on the bail applications — in more than 20 cases which were clubbed together — were conducted in courtrooms 1 and 3 of the ATC by Judge Ijaz Ahmed Butter and Judge Hussain Bhutta, respectively.
Special Prosecutor Abdul Rauf Watoo argued that bail should not be granted at this stage. The TLP leaders were represented by different lawyers.
Cases were registered against the TLP leaders at different police stations in Lahore under sections related to terrorism, following the latest round of violence in the provincial capital last month in which at least three policemen were killed and several others injured.
The court granted them bail in all of those cases.
Clashes between TLP, police
The TLP had launched the latest round of protests in Lahore on Oct 20, primarily to exert pressure on the Punjab government for the release of its chief, Hafiz Saad Hussain Rizvi, the son of its late founder Khadim Rizvi. The younger Rizvi has been kept in detention by the Punjab government since April 12 for "maintenance of public order".
However, TLP leader Pir Ajmal Qadri had later said the purpose of the move was "respect for the Holy Prophet (PBUH)", while also demanding Rizvi's release.
After three days of clashes with the police in Lahore, the TLP started a long march to Islamabad on Oct 22. Five police officials were martyred and scores of others from both sides received injuries in clashes in Lahore and Gujranwala as the marchers moved on the Grand Trunk Road.
The TLP leadership on Oct 30 asked the protesters to wait at Wazirabad for further instructions when the government and the group started negotiations.
On Oct 31, members of the negotiating team from the government side claimed that they had reached an 'agreement' with the proscribed group but refused to divulge its details.
Sources had told Dawn the TLP was assured that the government would not pursue minor cases against the TLP leadership and workers, but the cases registered under the Anti-Terrorism Act would be decided by courts.
It also assured the TLP leadership that it would unfreeze the accounts and assets of the proscribed outfit and take steps to lift the ban.
Lifting of ban
Following recommendations of the federal government's steering committee and Punjab cabinet committee on law, the provincial government on Thursday sent a summary to cabinet members seeking their approval on lifting of the ban on TLP as early as possible. "If the opinion/approval will not be received from any minister in three days, it shall be deemed that the minister has accepted the recommendations contained in the summary," the document read.
The sensitivity and importance of the issue can be gauged from the fact that, according to sources, all provincial ministers immediately conveyed their approval to the chief minister's secretariat.
A senior Punjab government official said the chief minister would now forward the provincial cabinet's approval to revoke the TLP's proscription to the federal government for a final go-ahead. "The federal cabinet will approve the revocation and the interior ministry will eventually notify it," the official added.
While some 2,100 TLP activists have been released from police custody after the federal government-TLP agreement, the revocation of the group's proscribed status will automatically remove around 8,000 TLP activists from the Fourth Schedule — a list on which suspects of terrorism and sectarianism are placed under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997.