Rizvi’s case to be decided on merit, says LHC

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–Judge withdraws amnesty given to TLP leader 

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday said the case pertaining to bail plea of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Khadim Rizvi will be decided on merits, as it withdrew amnesty it had been willing to give Rizvi in return for a written assurance from the cleric that he would not disrupt law and order.

During Monday hearing, the LHC had hinted at releasing Rizvi if he provided a written affidavit saying he would not create unrest in the society if released on bail.

As the court took up the case today, Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan asked Rizvi’s counsels if they had managed to procure a written guarantee from the TLP leader. The counsels said no as they were only allowed to meet their client on Friday.

The judge then asked whether Rizvi was willing to accept the said conditions in writing? At this point, Rizvi’s lawyer seemed to resist the demands being placed on his client.

“The government arrested Rizvi despite the [Faizabad] agreement,” he said, adding he was leading peaceful protests.

“Are you saying that the government deceived Rizvi?” the judge asked. “Yes, the government deceived Rizvi,” the lawyer maintained.

The court wasn’t pleased with the counsel demeanour and said it is withdrawing its earlier offer and Rizvi’s case would be decided on merit. The hearing was subsequently adjourned for a week.

In November 2018, Rizvi was taken into “protective custody” by police in Lahore after the law enforcement agencies launched a crackdown on TLP workers amid their call to observe martyrs day on November 25. Rizvi had reportedly asked workers and supporters to gather at Islamabad’s Faizabad — the same venue where the party had staged a weeks-long sit-in in November 2017 that had virtually paralysed the federal capital and led to several people losing their lives.

Rizvi’s arrest also came weeks after the TLP led three-day protests across the country against the acquittal of Aasia Bibi — a Christian woman whose blasphemy conviction was overturned by the apex court.

In November 2017, TLP workers demanding the resignation of then law minister Zahid Hamid had staged a weeks-long sit-in at the Faizabad interchange that had disrupted daily life in the federal capital and led to several deaths. The apex court had taken notice of the sit-in and directed the defence and interior secretaries to submit a detailed report on the matter.

Days later, the then PML-N government had launched against the protesters an operation which, when failed, had forced the authorities to cave and Hamid to resign.

In February, the top court gave its verdict on the suo motu case over the Faizabad sit-in. The judgement directed the federal government, law enforcers, intelligence agencies and the army’s media wing to operate within their mandate.