Thousands of furious protestors protested against the detention of Saad Hussain Rizvi, the chief of the hardline political group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, in Pakistan, which is now in the grip of a deadly third wave of the coronavirus due to a vaccine shortage (TLP).
Several people were killed and several others were wounded during the deadly clashes between angry TLP members and law enforcement officers. After essential oxygen supplies for COVID-19 patients were disrupted, the country-wide demonstrations that culminated in heavy street fighting added to the suffering.
How Did Protests Begin?
It all began when TLP chief Saad Hussain Rizvi was apprehended in Lahore just hours after calling for a march on the Federal Capital on April 20 to demand the removal of the French ambassador. Syed Zaheerul Hassan Shah, the TLP’s naib emir, said the government “fully deviated” from the agreement reached with the TLP on Namoos-i-Risalat.
What TLP Wants?
The TLP has set a deadline for its requests, which date back to October of last year, when a history teacher who had shown blasphemous drawings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in class was decapitated and his attacker was shot dead by French police when they attempted to apprehend him.
Following the death, France’s President, Emmanuel Macron, promised not to “give up cartoons” portraying the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Prime Minister Imran Khan, as well as other Muslim politicians, condemned the French premier’s remarks, and nationwide rallies were held calling for a boycott of French goods.
Following the attack, even to this day, Imran Khan has spoken out against the French step in international forums.
The current administration, according to the TLP, expressed its reluctance to enforce the agreement and asked the TLP leadership to cease protesting.
How did the TLP manage to paralyse Pakistan in a matter of hours?
TLP was created by cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who managed to paralyse the entire country within hours of his detention. After the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, who assassinated Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer for opposing blasphemy laws and rose to fame as a result, the party was created.
Rizvi was an auqaf official in the Punjab government at the time of the Governor’s assassination. Rizvi had justified the murder by claiming that Taseer had referred to the blasphemy statute as a “black law.” He was sent warning notices to stop spreading his views in favour of blasphemy laws, but his reluctance resulted in his dismissal from the government.
TLP has been agitating on the issue of alleged blasphemy for many years, organising mass rallies around the country calling for the execution of all “blasphemers.”
Since winning the fourth-highest share of the popular vote for parliamentary seats in the country’s 2018 general election, the party gained even more traction.
In that election, the party only won two provincial assembly seats in Sindh’s southern province, but its candidates outperformed several more existing parties throughout the region.
What is Saad Hussain Rizvi’s background?
After his father Khadim Hussain Rizvi died of natural causes in November, Saad Hussain Rizvi became the TLP’s new leader.
Rizvi’s followers have organised marches in Pakistan in the past to press the government not to revoke the country’s contentious blasphemy laws.