Islamabad: A special antiterrorism court (ATC) in Pakistan on Saturday extended the judicial remand of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) leaders Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Pir Afzal Qadri and other Islamists until March 16.

Rizvi and Qadri — along with activists of the TLP and dozens of other religious hardliners — were arrested in November last year following their participation in rallies, road blocks and violent protests across the country to denounce the acquittal of a Christian woman Asia Bibi by the Supreme Court on October 31, 2018.

Facing blasphemy charges, Bibi had been in jail since 2009.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan had acquitted her, setting aside a Lahore High Court verdict of 2010.

Denouncing the apex court’s verdict Rizvi and Qadri urged their supporters to rally against judges, armed forces and the state of Pakistan.

Law enforcement officials arrested and booked them under sedition and terrorism clauses.

On Saturday, the court extended the accused’s physical remand, in cases registered against them of sedition and terrorism, for delivering anti-state speeches and inciting violence during their three-day protests against Bibi’s acquittal in the blasphemy case.

While distributing copies of the ‘challan’ registered against them, the ATC-IV of Lahore extended the remand for the seven suspects, including the TLP chief, Pir Afzal Qadri, Pir Ejaz Ashrafi, Farooqul Hasan, Shafqat Jamil, Waheed Noor and Syed Zaheer ul Hassan Shah.

On November 23, 2018, Rizvi was taken into ‘protective custody’ by police from Lahore as law enforcement agencies launched a massive crackdown against workers of the TLP.

Violent protests had erupted in different parts of the country as activists of TLP and other religious parties took to the streets and blocked major roads and intersections through sit-ins and by putting barricades in protest against the SC verdict.

The suspects on Saturday were brought to court amid heavy security arrangements by Civil Lines Station officials, where case number 958/18 is registered against them. Their lawyers, Murtuza Ali Peerzada, Tahir Minhas and Nasir Minhas were also present in court.

In an attempt to avoid any law and order situation the local administration had deployed additional contingents of police and security forces in and outside the premises of the court.

During a previous hearing of the case, police had arrested dozens of TLP workers after they tried to block an armoured vehicle carrying the party chief when he appeared before the ATC.