Over the past few weeks, Pakistan has been embroiled in religious unrest. At the root of this, is a supreme court judgment acquitting Asiya Bibi, a Christian woman, of a years-old blasphemy charge.
This caused a strong reaction from certain segments of Pakistani society who viewed the decision as an abdication of responsibility and demanded that Bibi is executed for her alleged crime. At the forefront of this outrage is a figure named Khadim Rizvi whose appeals provoked widespread demonstrations and civil unrest.
This is not Rizvi’s first encounter with the limelight as his group was at the forefront of similar events at the end of 2017. In these, there were cases in which some these demonstrations turned into rioting putting some parts of the country in a standstill. For that reason, many are very wary whenever these people organize against government action. This was clear from the events of last week.
After being detained for several days, Rizvi was charged with sedition and terrorism by the Pakistani government. The government alleged that the protests had brought people’s lives much difficulty. Despite affirming the general right to protest, the government insisted that Rizvi’s actions were different as they were intended to causing unrest and even violence. The arrest came after Rizvi called on his followers to observe Martyr’s Day by sitting in allegedly facilitating further unrest. Despite his controversial past, Rizvi has not been without his supporters with allies such as Muneebur Rehman demanding a pardon in order to preserve religious harmony