Pakistan arrests 300 supporters of detained Islamic cleric

Pakistan Crackdown begins against religious group TLP

Police in an ongoing crackdown arrested some 1100 supporters of a detained radical Islamic cleric, who disrupted daily life with nationwide rallies following the acquittal of a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, officials said Saturday.

In a statement, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik party said their leader, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, was arrested on Friday in the city of Lahore.

The police was requested for filing a case against Rizvi and others but to no avail, the petition said seeking the court order for filing of sedition case against Khadim Hussain Rizvi.

The TLP almost paralysed Pakistan in the days after Asia Bibi, a Christian woman held for almost a decade on death row, was acquitted of blasphemy late last month, after it called its protestors out to block major roads. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the current crackdown on Labbaik party supporters has nothing to do with Asia Bibi's case.

The TLP party was formed in 2015 to campaign against reforms to Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws and in support of Mumtaz Qadri, who was executed for killing the Punjab governor who wanted to help Ms Bibi.

"Khadim Hussain Rizvi has been taken into protective custody by police and shifted to a guest house", tweeted Chaudhry.

That protest led to the resignation of the law minister of previous government. Late on Friday his son said he had been taken away in a raid on his religious school, or madrassa, in Lahore.

The TLP has promised more street protests if she is permitted to leave the country.

Bibi's lawyer fled Pakistan shortly after the landmark court ruling, saying his life was in danger.

Friday night's detention of Rizvi appeared to set up a new confrontation, with the cleric urging supporters to "jam the whole country" if he was arrested.

She and her family have said they can no longer live in Pakistan and are understood to have been granted asylum in several European countries.



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