On Monday (April 12), violent protests broke out in several cities of Pakistan after security forces arrested Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) leader Saad Hussain Rizvi. TLP is a radical Islamist party that was founded in 2015 to prevent any changes to the existing blasphemy law in the country. The founder of the hardline party was a radical Islamic cleric named Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi. Following his death in November 2020, his son Saad Hussain became the successor or the Ameer of TLP.
As per reports, the arrest of Saad Hussain came at the backdrop of the party’s ultimatum to the Imran Khan government to fulfil its four demands before the deadline of April 20. The demands were originally made in November last year, following the beheading of 46-year-old Samuel Paty by a teenage Jihadi terrorist in France and the subsequent criticism of Islamists by French President Emmanuel Macron. TLP also took offence to the display of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad in public in one city in France.
Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan was the frontrunner in mobilising an army of Islamists to protest against France in Karachi last year. The former Ameer Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi had even asked the Imran Khan government to launch a jihad against France. The federal government responded by placing blockades on roads to prevent TLP workers from entering Islamabad. About 181 people were detained by the security forces and 65 of them were sent to Adiala jail.
The background of the violence
Violence between TLP workers and police intensified on November 15 last year so much so that the government gave in to their demands the following day. In their charter of demands, TLP directed the ouster of the French ambassador within 3 months. They demanded the release of arrested members of the TLP and said that no further cases should be registered against the party’s workers.
TLP also demanded that Pakistan would not appoint its ambassador to France, else they would continue their sit-in protests. The Imran Khan government, through its Interior Ministry, issued a notification to release all TLP workers. On January 3 this year, the new successor of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan Saad Hussain Rizvi threatened to launch countrywide protests if its demand of expelling the French ambassador is not met by February 17.
“If you have forgotten the promise, see our history… You have got time until Feb 17 to expel the French ambassador,” he had earlier warned. On February 11, the Imran Khan government reached a new agreement with TLP and assured that their demands will be tabled before the Parliament on April 20. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan had told TLP that no other PM had raised the issue of blasphemy on international platforms more than him. However, in his signature U-turn, Imran Khan failed to implement the agreement ahead of the April 20 deadline.
The arrest of TLP leader Saad Hussain Rizvi
In a video message on Sunday (April 11), TLP leader Saad Hussain Rizvi urged his followers to protest and hit the roads against the government if demands are not fulfilled. This call for a countrywide protest led to his arrest at around 2 pm on Wahdat Road in Lahore. Following his arrest, a large mob of his supporters blocked the Grand Trunk Road at several junctions. Major cities such as Islamabad, Lahore, Gujranwala, and Peshawar were cut off from the rest of the country. The Islamists had also blocked motorways, highways, train tracks and clashed with the police.
After nationwide protests broke out after Tehreek-e-Labbaik head Saad Rizvi was taken into custody, footage of him being escorted into a police vehicle by security forces has gone viral.#etribune #SaadRizvi #TLP— The Express Tribune (@etribune) April 12, 2021
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While speaking about the development, TLP leader Khalid Awan said, “We will not step back from our mission because of Saad Rizvi’s arrest.” A TLP spokesperson, Tayyab Rizvi, vowed, “They (Protests) will continue till the French ambassador is deported.” He added that a total of 12 members of the Islamist party were killed in police firing in cities such as Lahore, Karachi and Talagang. Keeping in mind the law and order situation, major intersections in Karachi and Islamabad were closed on Sunday (April 13).
TLP Islamists unleash violence in Pakistan
Several videos have now surfaced online that highlights the grim law and order situation in Pakistan. In a video shared by Twitter user (@AbdulGJutt), Islamists brandishing skullcaps were seen brutally assaulting security personnel with sticks. Even after the victim bled from his face, the mob continued with the thrashing. Another security personnel could be heard pleading with the TLP supporters to stop assaulting the man.
Popular Pakistani atheist Harris Sultan shared a video of a mob vandalising a car with sticks, even when the occupants were inside the vehicle. They broke the window panes while the driver tried to desperately back off from the chaotic scene. Haris Sultan tweeted, “Somes lovers of the prophet peaceful letting it out on a blasphemous car.”
In another video, a frenzied mob can be seen gathering around a lone police official and mercilessly throwing blows at him.
In a heart-wrenching video, Islamists are seen pulling a bruised police official while he pleaded with them to spare him. “Are you a Muslim? You must be a Jewish (Yahoodi) agent.” Although the nameplate read ‘Umar’, the mob assumed that he was a Jew and hurled the choicest of expletives at him. In the end, the security personnel collapsed on the ground while the mob chanted, “Labaik Labaik.”
Despite the violence wrecked by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan in the country, the Pakistani army personnel were seen raising Islamist slogans along with the party members. Journalist Shama Junejo tweeted, “This video gives a clear message to the world from our armed forces that where do they stand, who they are with, & what kind of social structure they will support in Pakistan. Yet we wonder about #FATF & being a high-risk country for the UK.”
This video gives a clear message to the world from our armed forces that where do they stand, who they are with, & what kind of social structure they will support in Pakistan.— Shama Junejo (@ShamaJunejo) April 12, 2021
Yet we wonder about #FATF & being a high risk country for UK#TLPProtest
Although the Karachi police dispersed the mob from a large part of the city, TLP leader continued with their violent protests in three areas namely Hub River Road, Korangi 2.5 and Orangi Town No. 5. While speaking about the violence in Hub River Road, ASI Farooq Ahmed said that TLP mob pelted stones at the law enforcement officials when they tried to clear the area.
Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid informed that the violent protestors had disrupted oxygen supplies for Coronavirus patients on Monday night. She requested, “Please do not block roads for ambulances and for visitors to the hospitals. Some ambulances are carrying oxygen cylinders, which are extremely essential for Covid patients.” The crisis of oxygen cylinders was stabilised on Tuesday after roads were cleared by law enforcement authorities.
TLP earlier regretted that the Pakistani government was fighting Naamazis and not Hindus
Last year, TLP Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan released videos where Muslims said that the ‘Badmash’ (naughty) Imran Khan government was instigating the ‘Kalma’ reading forces against the ‘Kalma’ reading Muslims of Rawalpindi when Muslims of Srinagar and Kashmir were hoping that these same forces would rescue them. They lamented the fact that the Pakistani forces were taking action against Namazis instead of “fighting Hindus”.