LAHORE - Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) patron-in-chief Pir Afzal Qadri has decided to step down over health reasons.

Presently at a Lahore jail on judicial remand, the fire brand religious cleric has also tendered apology for indecent remarks and issuing decree against Chief of Army Staff (COAS) during a protest against acquittal of Asia Bibi by the Supreme Court.

Along with other leaders including TLP Chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Qadri was booked under sedition and terrorism charges and later taken into “protective custody” during a crackdown after the TLP announced observing martyrs’ day on November 25.

In a video that went viral on social media last night (Tuesday), he tendered apology for hurting sentiments of government, judiciary and the COAS.

“I am a patient of heart, paralysis, kidney, high blood pressure and sugar. Acquittal of Asia Bibi hurt my religious sentiments. I delivered a speech after the Supreme Court order. I am sorry for hurting the sentiments of the government, the judiciary and the COAS,” he said.

Qadri also distanced the party from an incident of student associated with a senior TLP leader killing his teacher at a university in Bahawalpur earlier this year.

Pir Afzal Qadri tenders apology to govt, judiciary and COAS

He directed leaders and workers to propagate viewpoints in a manner consistent with teachings of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah, and also in line with the law and the constitution.

“No one will be allowed to resort to arson, vandalism and destroying public and private properties. Terrorism, killings and armed sectarian action will be discouraged,” he said, adding, the institutions, the law and the constitution would be respected. He said the workers would stand by the army to defend the country. He urged workers to behave nicely, remain peaceful and refrain from engaging in any activity against the integrity of Pakistan. Qadri said he had decided last year to retire from the movement and had informed his friends, but had announced the decision now on further deterioration of health.

Top TLP leaders, including Afzal Qadri and Khadim Rizvi, were taken into protective custody as they had announced holding a public rally in Islamabad to observe martyrs’ day on November 25. The TLP leadership had asked workers and supporters to gather at Faizabad interchange, the same venue where the party had earlier staged a weeklong sit-in.

During the protests, TLP leadership had termed the chief justice liable to be killed and had incited soldiers for a rebellion against the COAS because he was an ‘ahmadi’.

Earlier, in 2017, TLP staged weeklong sit-in at Faizabad interchange to press for the demand of resignation of the then law minister Zahid Hamid.

After a failed operation, the PML-N government succumbed to the pressure and took resignation from the law minister.

The Lahore High Court is hearing a bail petition of Afzal Qadri and Khadim Rizvi today (Thursday). Both the leaders had approached LHC after rejection of petition by the lower court.