ICT administration withdraws arrest warrants of violent TLP leaders


ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Administration on Friday withdrew the arrest orders of 19 Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) leaders who were allegedly involved in acts of violence during the three-day protests against the blasphemy accused Aasia Bibi’s acquittal by the Supreme Court (SC) on October 31.

An earlier Facebook post by the office of the Islamabad deputy commissioner (DC) had stated that the district administration had issued arrest warrants for 19 persons “who were involved in violence and incitement”, under Section 3 of the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Ordinance 1960.

The warrants which had been issued on November 2 were withdrawn on November 7 on the orders of Islamabad district magistrate Hamza Shafqaat in a notification that the move was “in [the] public interest”.

The interior secretary, Islamabad chief commissioner, inspector general of police (IGP) and Adiala jail administration have been made aware about the withdrawal of the arrest orders. However, no statement has been issued by the government or relevant authorities in this regard as yet.

Hours after Aasia Bibi’s acquittal on October 31, the TLP and other religio-political parties had launched countrywide protests which soon turned violent. The protest which had gone on for three days ceased after the government signed a deal conceding to TLP’s demands, the most crucial of which was agreeing to “initiate the legal process” to place the acquitted woman’s name on the exit control list (ECL).

Furthermore, in addition to taking legal action to redress any loss of life that may have occurred during the protests, it was guaranteed by the government that a review petition filed against the SC’s judgement in the blasphemy case would not be opposed and all those picked up in connection with the protests would be released.

Following the agreement, the federal government had initiated a “crackdown” against “miscreants” who took part in damaging public and private properties including vehicles during the protests.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, reiterating the PM’s earlier statement, had warned that the government would neither turn a blind eye to nor forget the inciteful speeches made by the religio-political leaders against the government, Pak army and judiciary.

“No one should have the impression that the government will forgive this behaviour. The impression that this government is weak will be removed as we take further action,” the information minister had warned.

It is not certain if the decision to withdraw the arrest warrants was taken under the terms of the agreement or due to other reasons.