Pak court awards lengthy
sentences to TLP members
for riots, attacking police

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ISLAMABAD: An anti-terrorism court (ATC) in the Pakistani city of Gujranwala has convicted 19 members of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and awarded them 16-year prison sentences each for attacking police during riots in October, Pakistani media reported on Saturday. 

ATC judge Natasha Naseem Sipra also imposed a fine of Rs30,000 on each of the convicts while acquitting 15 others in the case, the Arab News has reported.

The TLP has repeatedly paralysed the country with protests, including an anti-France campaign after Paris-based satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last year republished cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). This October, the party held weeks-long protests and engaged in violent clashes with police, dispersing only after the government unbanned the group, freed thousands of its jailed activists and allowed TLP to contest upcoming elections.

A file picture shows TLP activists demonstrating.

Earlier this year, Pindi Bhattian police had filed cases against 34 TLP members on charges of killing a policeman, injuring several others, blocking roads, snatching anti-riot jackets and other related offences.

“The judge awarded 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine of Rs30,000 each in three different offences of section 6 of ATA [Anti-Terrorism Act] and one-year imprisonment in section 148 of PPC [Pakistan Penal Code],” Dawn reported. “The convicts have already been arrested and kept in the Hafizabad district jail.”

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government banned the TLP after its protests turned violent in April this year, designated it a terror group and arrested its chief Saad Rizvi.

The group, which can mobilise thousands of supporters, was born in 2015 out of a protest campaign to seek the release of a police guard who assassinated a provincial governor in 2011 over his calls to reform blasphemy legislation. TLP entered politics in 2017 and secured over 2 million votes in the 2018 election.

The next national election is scheduled for 2023.