–Interior Minister Afridi says govt will follow orders of the Supreme Court in the high-profile blasphemy case
–Says govt providing security to Aasia Bibi and her family, vows not to spare rioters
Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi on Wednesday said that the federal government will uphold the Supreme Court’s verdict that acquitted a Christian woman Aasia Bibi of blasphemy charges, assuring that her name would not be placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) until she is proven guilty.
Speaking about the recent countrywide protests following the top court’s verdict acquitting Bibi, Afridi told the Voice of America that among the protesters, there was a group of people who damaged public property for their own personal gains and agenda.
Afridi said that the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) leaders, who signed an agreement with the government to end the demonstrations, had distanced themselves from the miscreants.
“When we informed the TLP leaders of the miscreants and showed them TV footage, they refused to accept that those rioters belonged to their party,” he added.
Speaking about the arrests of rioters, Afridi said, “Those arrested will be treated in a legal manner. I assure you there will no compromise on the supremacy of law.”
“It is the prime minister and other officials’ clear stance that there will be no compromise if anyone breaks or challenges the law,” he asserted.
Speaking about the agreement which stated that “due process will be followed immediately to include the name of Aasia Bibi in ECL”, Afridi said, “The government will uphold whatever the Supreme Court decides.”
“If someone cannot be proven guilty then how can we place their name on ECL? There can be no question about that,” the minister of state for interior upheld.
He further said, “All Pakistanis, no matter which religion or school of thought they belong to, are the responsibility of the state. No one can be given the license to play with lives and property.”
“Aasia Bibi and her family is in Pakistan and they are being given security by the government,” he added.
Religio-political parties, particularly TLP, had taken to the streets after the top court had acquitted Aasia Bibi, paralysing daily life in various cities of the country.
The TLP only ended their sit-in after striking a deal with the government that would ensure that the government would not object to the review petition filed against Aasia Bibi’s acquittal by the top court and the legal process to place her name on the ECL would be initiated immediately.
Besides agreeing to investigate in accordance with the law the deaths (if any) which took place during the course of protests, the government also agreed to release all protesters arrested since October 30. The TLP had also apologised for the inconveniences caused because of the protests in the agreement that was signed between the representatives of the party and government.
However, a day after striking the deal with TLP, the government swung into action against the party by launching a crackdown against the people who vandalised public properties.
The action was taken on the orders of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The PM ordered the arrest of the people who were engaged in vandalism and directed the federal government to work in collaboration with the provincial governments. Later, the Interior Ministry started a crackdown across the country and registered FIRs against TLP Patron-in-Chief Pir Afzal Qadri, central leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi and others.
Hundreds of TLP activists have been taken into custody while raids are being conducted to arrest the remaining suspects.
On Tuesday, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar took suo motu notice of the riots and ordered the federal and provincial governments to submits their reports on the loss of life or property of citizens.