Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Hafiz Saad Hussain Rizvi was released from Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore on Thursday, Jail Superintendent Ijaz Asghar confirmed to Dawn.com.
TLP spokesperson Mufti Abid also confirmed the development and told Dawn.com that Rizvi had reached the party's headquarters, Rehmatul Lil Alameen Mosque, where he was greeted by hundreds of the party's jubilant workers and supporters.
The mosque will also host an urs to commemorate the death anniversary of the TLP chief's father and the group's founder, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, from November 20-21.
Rizvi has been released after the withdrawal of a reference filed in the Supreme Court's federal review board regarding his detention and the removal of his name from the Fourth Schedule — a list of proscribed individuals who are suspected of terrorism or sectarianism under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997 — last week.
Earlier, Dawn had reported that a high-level meeting held chaired by Punjab Law Minister Basharat Raja on Wednesday could not reach a consensus on Rizvi's release. The meeting linked Rizvi’s release with the decision of the federal review board, which had been approached by the Punjab government for the withdrawal of its application regarding the TLP chief's detention.
Rizvi's name was removed from the Fourth Schedule after the Punjab Home Department issued a notification dated November 10, stating that the "name of Hafiz Mohammad Saad, being Ameer of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, a proscribed organisation, was listed in the Fourth Schedule of Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, under Section 11-E on the recommendations of District Intelligence Committee, Lahore."
It noted that the government had removed the TLP from the First Schedule of the Act as a proscribed organisation on Nov 7.
"Therefore, name of Hafiz Mohammad Saad is hereby deleted from the list of 4th Schedule of Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, with immediate effect," it stated.
Police had arrested Rizvi on April 12 this year ahead of planned protests by the TLP. The next day, police registered a first information report (FIR) against the TLP chief under sections of the ATA.
Rizvi was detained by the Punjab government for “maintenance of public order (MPO)”. He was initially detained for three months and then again under the Anti-Terrorist Act on July 10.
His name was placed on the Fourth Schedule on April 16.
The government had declared the TLP a proscribed outfit under the anti-terror law in April this year, after three days of violent protests by the group's activists across the country.
Rizvi's release follows another round of a days-long protest by the TLP and an agreement reached with the government last month.
The protest, primarily launched to exert pressure on the Punjab government for Rizvi's release and the expulsion of the French ambassador over blasphemous sketches of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), started on October 20 in Lahore and soon turned violent.
Later, the protesters began a march toward Islamabad but were stopped in Wazirabad, where the protest was called off after a deal with the government.
Negotiations between the TLP and government had started on October 30, with the members of the negotiating team from the government side claiming the next day 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 group and take steps to lift the ban on it.
Khadim Hussain Rizvi's death anniversary
While the younger Rizvi was released from jail, arrangements were under way for an urs at the Rehmatul Lil Alameen Mosque to commemorate his father's death anniversary.
According to a statement issued by the office of Lahore Deputy Commissioner Umar Sher Chatha, the official visited the mosque to the review arrangements for the urs.
The statement said a control room would be set up for the monitoring of the urs and 200 CCTV cameras would be installed at the spot. It added that Rescue 1122 personnel would also be deployed in the control room, from where all entry and exit points of the area would be strictly monitored.
Preparations were also under way to set up a medical camp at the location to deal with any untoward incident, the statement said, adding that nearby hospitals would also be put on alert.
Security forces and civil defence personnel would be deployed in the area, which a bomb disposal squad would sweep.
Those attending the urs would be provided space for parking their vehicles in Sabzazar ground, Chauburji ground, Huma Block Park and the parking area for the State Bank of Pakistan.
The statement said the Lahore Waste Management Company staff would be assigned the cleaning of the area before the event.