Pakistan police arrest radical Islamic cleric who led Asia Bibi protests

Pakistani police have arrested a radical Islamic cleric who led nationwide rallies following the acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy in a case that drew international condemnation.

In a statement, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik party said their leader, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, was arrested on Friday in the city of Lahore. Police also arrested scores of supporters, it said.

The arrests came weeks after Mr Rizvi’s supporters held violent rallies against the Oct. 31 acquittal of Mrs Bibi by the Supreme Court.

She had been on death row since 2010 on trumped up charges of insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

It angered Mr Rizvi and his supporters who rallied for three days.

Mr Rizvi ended the protest after authorities said Mrs Bibi would not leave Pakistan until a petition against her acquittal was reviewed. 

This week a British church charity criticised the Government’s failure to offer Mrs Bibi and her family asylum in the UK, which officials have attributed to concern about attacks on embassy staff in Pakistan. 

The British branch of Aid to the Church in Need said the family was being pursued by vigilantes while they awaited Mrs Bibi’s release from protective custody.

The cleric’s son said his father had been taken away in a nighttime raid on his religious school, or madrassa, in the eastern city of Lahore.

"Police raided our madrassa and arrested our revered leader," Saad Rizvi told Reuters by telephone.