LHC says written guarantee from Rizvi will no longer help bail plea

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The Lahore High Court withdrew an amnesty it had earlier been willing to grant Khadim Hussain Rizvi, saying the time to provide a written guarantee — promising that Rizvi will not disrupt law and order if provided bail — has now ‘passed’.

Rizvi was taken into “protective custody” by police in Lahore on November 23, 2018, after law enforcement agencies launched a massive crackdown against workers of TLP and Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA).

The crackdown came following Rizvi’s call to party members to observe ‘martyr’s day’ on November 25, the anniversary of the Faizabad sit-in.

Rizvi had asked workers and supporters to gather at the Faizabad Interchange in Islamabad — the same venue where his party had staged a weeks-long sit-in in November 2017 virtually paralysing the federal capital and leading 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 Supreme Court at the end of last month.

On Thursday, a two-judge bench, headed by Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan, on the outset asked Rizvi’s counsels if they had managed to procure a written guarantee from the TLP leader that would help his application for bail.

The court was told that the lawyers had so far not been able to meet their client as the day set for meetings was Friday.

“Is Rizvi ready to provide a written guarantee?” asked Justice Qasim Khan. “He should state that he will never again give any such instructions [encouraging them to cause a law and order situation] to his people.”

At this point, the lawyer representing Rizvi seemed to resist the demands being placed on his client.

“The government arrested Rizvi despite the [Faizabad] agreement,” he contended.

To which Justice Khan asked, “Where is it written in the agreement that people who take the law in their own hands will not be arrested? Or are you saying that the government deceived Rizvi?”

“Yes, the government deceived Rizvi. He was leading a peaceful protest,” the lawyer maintained.

That line of argument did not seem to go down well with the court. Though the lawyer then said he would present a guarantee from Rizvi, the court said the time for such a guarantee had passed and the bail plea would now be decided on its merits.

The hearing was subsequently adjourned for a week.

The Faizabad sit-in

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.

On November 21 of the same month, 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.

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