The arrest of Saad Rizvi and the spontaneous eruption of protests all over the country came out of the blue for most citizens. But the conflict has been brewing since November 2020.
Last year, the Tehreek-e-Labaik took to the streets and staged a sit-in in the federal capital against diplomatic relations with France due to the European country’s resolve to allow cartoons of the Islamic prophet as part of free speech.
The protest was eventually called off when the government signed an instrument of understanding which stated that the proposal to cut ties with France will be presented in the Parliament within three months, a duration that was set to expire in mid-February. The TLP was preparing to protest yet again in February as the government had not implemented the clauses of the agreement when Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed went to Lahore to exclusively meet Saad Rizvi, where he met the new TLP chief along with Lahore administration and intelligence officials and extended his respite till April 20, 2021. The minister assured Rizvi that the government will present a resolution in Parliament regarding the expulsion of the French Ambassador.
Sheikh Rashid informed the federal government regarding the situation, the fact that he was successful in convincing the TLP to grant the government more time. The Interior Ministry prepared a text of the resolution to be presented in Parliament as a strategy, as well as a secret paper against Tehreek-e-Labaik and its leadership, BBC reported.
On February 12, 2021, Prime Minister Imran Khan said in a TV interview that he would put the demands of Tehreek-e-Labaik in Parliament.
A meeting of the National Assembly was convened in the first week of April and on April 7, 2021, Prime Minister Imran Khan presided over a high-level meeting in which Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri, Interior Ministry and Top intelligence officials attended.
Sources said that the meeting decided to take action against the party.
A meeting of the National Assembly was held but no resolution was tabled by the Interior Ministry based on the demands of Tehreek-e-Labaik. After which Saad Rizvi was arrested on April 12, 2021.
Saad Rizvi is currently in the custody of Punjab Police. The government thought his sudden arrest would reduce the intensity of the reaction, but it is still strong and police and protesters continue to stone each other in different parts of the country.
Government officials claim that more than 30 cases have been registered against Saad Rizvi and his party officials across Punjab, while intelligence is being sought from all four provinces to take action against the party under the Anti-Terrorism Act. Reports have also been directed to be sent to the Home Ministry.