Asia Bibi acquittal: Protests continue in Pakistan for third day, Army urges end to standoff
Protests continue to rock Pakistan for the third consecutive day after the Supreme Court acquitted Asia Bibi in a blasphemy case.
All roads in major cities in the country have been blocked as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TLP) called for a shutter-down strike.
At least 14 major religious groups have joined in the protests, They were seen burning tyres and throwing stones at vehicles on the road. Religious clerics have denounced the court’s verdict and are demanding that she be executed publicly.
The Pakistan Army warned the protestors to not test their ‘patience’ and urged the people to end the standoff peacefully to avoid the use of force.
Major General Asif Ghafoor
Army spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor said it was being tolerant to the anti-military statements of the protest leaders as their focus was to get rid of the militancy and security problems in the country.
“We have shown patience. We have no link with the case (Asia Bibi ) but we want that justice should prevail.
We also want that the Army should not be forced to take action (against protestors) which it is empowered under the law to take,” he was quoted as saying in state-run channel PTV.
He added that a government team, including a representative of the ISI, was holding talks with the protestors and that the Army was close to winning the war against militants.
Geo TV reported that all major roads in several cities have been blocked by protesters who have stopped all vehicular movement and shut down shops and other businesses.
The road to Jinnah International Airport from Star Gate in Karachi has been blocked.
Dawn reports that protesters have blocked all major roads in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar bringing all activities to a standstill. Business activities in the cities too have been adversely affected.
Most of the educational institutions, both public and private, in Punjab, Balochistan, and Karachi in Sind are closed in view of the strike
Section 144 had been imposed across Punjab, Sindh, and Balochistan on Wednesday following the protests, which will continue till November 10.
The Imran Khan-led government has urged the protesting groups to respect the apex court’s ruling and is in consultation with opposition parties to diffuse the tension.
Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi was quoted by Geo TV as saying that the government is in consultation with the opposition for bringing the country-wide protests to an end.
Afridi said they will get the routes blocked by protesters reopened “through wisdom”, for which all institutions were in coordination with each other.
Pakistan’s information minister Fawad Chaudhry announced that mobile services in major cities like Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Gujranwala will remain suspended.
Amid the backlash after the historic judgment, security forces were deployed outside churches to protect the country’s minority Christian community and
the three SC judges who pronounced the judgment in the case are also being offered protection from an attack by religious hardliners.
Due to constant death threats, Asia Bibi will have to leave the country soon. She was accused of blasphemy and was commuted a death sentence by a Pakistani court.
On October 31,
the Pakistan Supreme Court acquitted Asia Bibi of the charge and she walked free after eight years. Asia, 47, a Roman Catholic and a mother of four, has been offered asylum by France and Spain.
In 2009, Bibi drank water from the same container as other Muslim women from her neighborhood, the women became angry and demanded that she convert.
Asia Bibi refused to do so, after which a mob accused her of blasphemy. She was tried in a court and sentenced to death.
Asia Bibi is the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws.