Is PTI government committed to curb religious extremism?

Courts not happy with the apology presented by Pir Afzal Qadri, asks for the labels used against them and other institutions of Pakistan to be explained.

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News Analysis |

A two-member bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) has shown displeasure and directed Pir Afzal Qadri, former leader of Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), to submit detailed apology before the court. The counsel for Qadri informed the court about the apology submitted by his client but the court raised some questions concerning the explanation of words like ‘harsh words’ and ‘disobedience’.

The council said that according to the record, Qadri had said that the three judges [who acquitted Aasia Bibi] were liable to be killed, that Prime Minister Imran Khan is a Zionist agent and that the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Javed Qamar Bajwa’s orders not to be accepted.

The government has banned some organizations and arrested several leaders and members of various organizations.

Justice Qasim Khan said “saying such things against army generals, what is it, if not treason”. Qadri’s legal counsel reiterated that Qadri had apologised in his letter, but Justice Asjad Javed Ghural pointed out that “he had declared that the judges of the higher judiciary deserve to be killed”. “Pir Afzal Qadri should have sought apology over the labels uttered against judges and generals,” added Justice Qasim Khan.

Read more: Asia Bibi will soon leave the country: PM Khan

Qadri says Goodbye to TLP

Qadri recently announced his retirement from the party and issued an apology for incendiary remarks made by him during a protest against the Supreme Court’s acquittal of Asia Bibi. Qadri was booked under sedition and terrorism charges in Gujrat and taken into “protective custody” by the state during a crackdown in November after the TLP announced it would observe martyrs’ day on Nov 25, 2018.

The counsel for Qadri informed the court about the apology submitted by his client but the court raised some questions concerning the explanation of words like ‘harsh words’ and ‘disobedience’.

Currently, the Lahore High Court is hearing a bail plea filed by Qadri and TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi since their earlier applications were rejected by an anti-terrorism court. In the last hearing of the case, the court had asked the police to submit a record of proof that led to the arrests of Rizvi and Qadri.

In a video message, Mr. Qadri pleaded that “I am a patient of heart disease, paralysis, kidney disease, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure etc., and when the verdict of the Asia Masih case was pronounced, my religious sentiments got hurt and I delivered a speech. I am very sorry for hurting the sentiments of the government, the judiciary and the Chief of Army Staff.”

Read more: SC rejects petition against Asia Bibi’s acquittal

He also directed party leaders and workers to propagate their viewpoints in a manner consistent with the teachings of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah, and also in line with the law and the Constitution of Pakistan. It was shocking for many people on social media that a self-styled ‘custodian of religion’ has decided to quit the party.

However, it was expected that the state of Pakistan would retain its authority and its claim over violence and it shall be demonstrated through some practical actions. Former Federal Minister for Information stated on many occasions that those who challenged the state shall not be forgiven.

Read more: Asia Bibi case: Understanding ‘divine law’ for the evil voices

Government’s Stance

Recently, Muttahida Ulema Board Punjab has recommended a ban on books authored by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and Ahmadi leaders. Muttahida Ulema Board Punjab Chairman Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi informed the media that the central board meeting of Muttahida Ulema Board Punjab has decided to ban a book of Pir Afzal Qadri ‘Monthly Awaz-e-Ahl-e-Sunnah’, ‘Kashti-e-Nuh’ of Mirza Ghulam Ahmed Qadyani.

The Lahore High Court is hearing a bail plea filed by Qadri and TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi since their earlier applications were rejected by an anti-terrorism court.

The meeting further recommended filing case against the publisher of this book under section 295/C. Moreover, the incumbent government has announced to implement the NAP in letter and spirit. The government has banned some organizations and arrested several leaders and members of various organizations.

Read more: Asia Bibi case verdict, fallacious arguments and our national mindset

Besides, several mosques and religious seminaries have been taken into the control of the state to regulate them. Prime Minister Imran Khan also said during a meeting of the federal cabinet that his government was taking action against the banned organization in the best national interest.

PM Khan reportedly made it clear that anybody who challenges the writ of the state shall not be spared. It is worth noting that while chairing a PTI’s parliamentary party meeting, the premier clarified that the crackdown against the banned militant outfits was an internal security matter and the government had taken the decision without any external pressure.

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