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Pakistan Cracks Down On Hard-Liners After Cleric Detained


TLP head Khadim Hussain Rizvi speaks to supporters during a protest following the Supreme Court's decision to acquit Asia Bibi of blasphemy, in Lahore on November 2.

Pakistani authorities have launched a crackdown against supporters of a detained radical Islamic cleric whose party had held violent rallies against the acquittal of a Christian woman in a blasphemy case.

Police said on November 24 that they detained more than 300 supporters of Tehrik-e Labaik Pakistan (TLP) in Punjab Province in an effort to "maintain public order" following the detention of the party's leader, Khadim Hussain Rizvi.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the action was prompted by TLP's refusals to withdraw its call for protests.

"Police has been deployed in all major cities of [Punjab Province] to deal with any untoward incident. There is a complete ban on all type of political gatherings in the province," Punjab Information Minister Fayyaz ul-Hassan Chohan said.

Rizvi led three days of violent rallies across Pakistan earlier this month after the Supreme Court on October 31 acquitted Asia Bibi, who had spent eight years on death row on a blasphemy conviction.

The protests mostly ended after the authorities said Bibi would not leave the country until a petition against her acquittal was reviewed.

Bibi has denied the charges against her, and her prosecution rallied international rights groups, politicians, and religious figures.

Rizvi was taken into custody in Lahore, the capital of Punjab, late on November 23 after calling on party supporters to rally in Islamabad.

Security forces arrested scores of Rizvi's supporters as they took to streets to protest his overnight arrest.

Chaudhry tweeted that Rizvi was "taken into protective custody by police and shifted to a guest house" to "safeguard public life, property, and order."

The cleric will be detained for 30 days, according to a notification issued by the Punjab government, which said there was "credible" information that he would create a law and order situation.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and dpa
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