Pakistani police arrest cleric behind Asia Bibi protests | News | DW | 23.11.2018
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Pakistani police arrest cleric behind Asia Bibi protests

Pakistani police have arrested the leader of a hard-line Islamist party who staged nationwide rallies against the acquittal of Christian woman Asia Bibi. The cleric's protests brought major cities to a standstill.

Prominent cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi has been arrested at his residence in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, his Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) party said in a statement.

A further 700 TLP leaders were arrested in simultaneous raids in multiple cities on Friday evening, Pakistani Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told DW.

"There is no time frame for how many days Mr. Rizvi could be detained, and law and order is under control," Chaudhry said.

Police also rounded up scores of the cleric's supporters, who clashed with officers after he was taken away. At least five people were injured, police said.

The arrests came just a few weeks after the leader of the ultra-conservative TLP led massive demonstrations across the country against the Supreme Court's decision to acquit Christian woman Asia Bibi.

Read moreOpinion: Asia Bibi exposes a failing Pakistani state

Boosted security

Heavy police and paramilitary contingents were deployed overnight as TLP members came out to protest against the detention of their leader. The cleric had urged supporters to "jam the whole country" if he was arrested.

Following the verdict acquitting Bibi on October 31, the TLP rallied for three days, shutting down major cities and blocking roads. Rizvi ended the protest only after assurances from the government that Bibi would not be allowed to leave Pakistan until a petition against her acquittal was reviewed.

Read moreIslamists block roads in Pakistan over Bibi blasphemy case

Bibi has been released but is currently in hiding with her family. Her lawyer has fled the country, fearing for his life.

Bibi had been on death row for eight years on charges of insulting Prophet Muhammad. The TLP has threatened to start protesting again if there is any sign she may be allowed to leave the country. 

Bibi was convicted in 2010 for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Islam. She has always denied the charges of blasphemy.

DW's Islamabad correspondent Haroon Janjua contributed to this report.

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nm/cmk (Reuters, AP)

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