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Third Day of Protests Continue Against Asia Bibi’s Acquittal

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Since the past 3 days, a vast number of roads in all the major cities of Pakistan have been blocked by
the supporters of ultra Islamist parties such as Tehreek e Labaik Pakistan (TLP). The acquittal of Asia Bibi aggravated many in Pakistan which lead them to take to the streets to portray their disappointment in the Judges decision. Hafiz Sae, an influential Islamist whom the U.S. accuses of being the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166, has also called for protests after Friday afternoon prayers.

Protesters chant slogans against the Court’s decision to acquit Asia Bibi.

On Thursday, the Minister of State for Interior, Shehryar Afridi said that the government is in consultation with the opposition to reach a negotiation and bring an end to the widespread protests which have been disrupting the nation since the past 2 days. Federal Religious Affairs Minister, Noorul Qadri, had been deputed by Prime Minister Imran Khan to hold the discussons. However, on Friday morning, the leader of TLP, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, tweeted that the talks had failed completely and that the Government threatened to “finish them off” which further sparked their rage. The protesters have vowed to continue their struggle.

Leader of Tehreek e Labaik Pakistan, Khadim Hussan Rizvi

After the announcement of widespread protests and strikes on Friday (today), the law-enforcement organizations finalized preparations for operation and security has been put on high alert. The police and rangers have been ordered to move closer to the protesters and have given them warnings on loud speakers that if they do not bring an end to the protests, they will be arrested.

Meanwhile, an application has been filed with the Civil Lines police station for registration of case against TLP heads such as Pir Afzal Qadri, Allam Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Dr Asif Jalali etc for using inappropriate words against the government and the state institutions. In one speech, a TLP speaker exhorted supporters to light new fires if the police managed to douse burning tyres and other objects they had already set ablaze. Amidst efforts by the governments to diffuse the situation, religious parties still continue to protest and portray violence.

Protestors burn Asia Bibi’s posters to display their discontent.

Most of the roads in Islamabad have opened up apart from a few. The Rawalpindi-Islamabad Faizabad Interchange was blocked along with Dhoke Kala Khan, Tramri Chowk, Karal Chowk and routes leading to Taxila, Gujar Khan and Pir Sohawa. The M2 Motorway from Lahore to Islamabad was also blocked and the traffic was being diverted to GT Road through Pindi Bhattian. In Lahore, Charing Cross at Mall Road, Ferozepur Road, Data Darbar and Shahdara Chowk, Askari X and Bhatta Chowk were filled with long queues of traffic due to the blockage of roads. Protests are also being staged in Karachi, Gujranwala, Mansehra, Faisalabad, Peshawar and other cities across the country.

Those travelling abroad were informed by PIA to reach atleast five hours prior to the departure of their international flights due to the on going protests. Schools, colleges and universities have been shut down all over the country and exams have been postponed. The Punjab government spokesperson said that intermediate exams scheduled for Thursday under all secondary education boards have been postponed and that a new date will be announced later.

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