Pakistani protesters shout slogans against Asia Bibi, a Christian woman facing death sentence for blasphemy, at a protest in Karachi on October 13, 2016. (ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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Police in Pakistan have arrested the radical Islamic cleric who led the nationwide protests, which became riots and a house-to-house bloodlust hunt, against Christian Asia Bibi, who was on death row over inflated charges of blasphemy against Mohammad and then acquitted and released earlier this month.
Earlier this week, the so-called protests became a mob hunting for her, house-to-house, while her family has begged for her asylum in the West.
On Friday, the extreme Islamist Tehreek-e-Labbaik confirmed that leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi was arrested in Lahore, along with dozens of supporters. A spokesman for the Punjab province, where the arrest took place, said he was detained in an effort to prevent additional upcoming protests over public safety concerns.
Rizvi led three days of protests, which turned violent, after the aquittal came down. Once Pakisan agreed to review the decision, he called a halt to the organized protest, but across the country the fervor remained.
In comments to The Guardian this week, Aid to the Church in Need UK (ACN) John Pontifex, who said the family told him the extremists were "in their neighbourhood going from house to house showing photos of family members on their phones, trying to hunt them down."
“The family have had to move from place to place to avoid detection. Sometimes they can only operate after sundown. They have had to cover their faces when they go out in public," he told the Guardian. "They have had to remove the rosary that hangs from their car rear-view mirror for fear of attack."
Calls to grant her asylum have increased in Europe and the United States, and here particularly on the right. Editor-in-Chief of the Washington Free Beacon this week published a widely-read editorial urging the United States to grant it.
Pakistan has denied Rizvi being detained is related to the Asia Bibi protests.
Khadim Hussain Rizvi has been taken into protective custody by police and shifted to a guest house.They insisted to come to Rwp refusing Governments proposal for alternative arrangements— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) November 23, 2018
It’s to safeguard public life, property and order and has to do nothing with Asia Bibi case
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