The arrest of Tehreek-i-Labaik (TLP) leaders Khadim Rizvi and Pir Afzal Qadri for charges of treason drew mostly positive reactions from the public, who praised the government for finally protecting the writ of state. Not everyone is happy with the arrest however. While most religious factions have denounced TLP’s antics, some opportunistic figures are vying for Rizvi’s release. Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman, a man best known for being the Chairman of the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee, and a personality we often only see near Eid, is one such figure.

Addressing a news conference at the National Press Club, he apologised on behalf of the TLP leaders to the people that TLP incited violence against- the Prime Minister, the Chief of Army Staff and the Supreme Court, and urged the government to grant Rizvi and Qadri a pardon. He called for the government to show TLP leniency, saying it was unfair to register sedition cases against the people who were patriots. He cited his reservation with the Supreme Court verdict on the Asia Bibi case and stated that a full bench should be constituted to deliberate the matter, where representatives of religious circles such as Khadim Rizvi and Afzal Qadri would also be allowed to record their statements. He also castigated the fact that the Information Minister was commenting on the case, adding that it was a religious issue and only the Religious Minister should handle it.

There are so many errors and inconsistencies in Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman’s statements that it is difficult to judge where to start. The irony of an obsolete religious figure, whose line of duty is limited to Eid moon sighting, making a heavy political statement, while at the same time criticising the Information Minister for commenting out of turn, is not lost. Violation of the writ of state and the violence and vandalism that befell the cities after the protest is not just a religious issue- it is a matter of security and it absolutely falls into the realm of the Information Minister’s duties. Incitement of violence against authority figures is a serious offence- and should not be let off easily even if the accused are “patriots”. Pakistan is still a democratic country for which the rule of law is supposed to be enforced equally- treason applies to all and is a direct challenge to self-proclaimed patriotism.

Treason should be a non-partisan issue. These religious political figures need to stay in their lane and refrain from interfering in cases involving national security.