Pro-Qadri pro­test­ers con­tinue sit-in out­side Par­lia­ment

The Pak Banker - - NATIONAL -

Around 2, 000 peo­ple protest­ing the ex­e­cu­tion of Mum­taz Qadri - a for­mer Pun­jab police com­mando hanged last month for as­sas­si­nat­ing Pun­jab gover­nor Sal­man Taseer are stag­ing a sit-in at D-Chowk within the cap­i­tal's Red Zone.

The demon­stra­tion that started early Sun­day evening is still un­der­way al­though the crowd has di­min­ished from 10,000 to around 2,000 pro­test­ers. The pro­test­ers led by Sunni Tehreek (ST) and Tehreek-i-Lab­baik Ya Ra­sool (SAW) lead­er­ship had ar­rived in the cap­i­tal on Sun­day to at­tend Qadri's chehlum pre­sented a charter of de­mand be­fore the gov­ern­ment and have an­nounced to stay in the Red Zone un­less the gov­ern­ment ac­cepts these de­mands, which in­clude im­ple­men­ta­tion of Shariah in the coun­try and declar­ing Mum­taz Qadri a mar­tyr. The set of 10 de­mands is­sued un­der the ban­ner of the Tehreek-i-Lab­baik Ya Ra­sool (SAW), in­clude the un­con­di­tional re­lease of all Sunni cler­ics and lead­ers booked on var­i­ous charges, in­clud­ing ter­ror­ism and mur­der; the recog­ni­tion of Mum­taz Qadri as a mar­tyr and the con­ver­sion of his Adi­ala Jail cell into a na­tional her­itage site; as­sur­ances that the blas­phemy laws will not be amended; and the re­moval of Ah­madis and other non-Mus­lims who had oc­cu­pied key posts.

They also de­manded the ex­e­cu­tion of blas­phemy ac­cused Aa­sia Bibi, the woman for­mer Pun­jab Gover­nor Sal­maan Taseer was killed for de­fend­ing. The gov­ern­ment on Sun­day called in the army to con­trol the law and or­der situation in the cap­i­tal af­ter some pro­test­ers re­sorted to vi­o­lence and al­legedly dam­aged pub­lic prop­erty.

The protest had turned vi­o­lent as par­tic­i­pants re­moved con­tain­ers and block­ades on the way to the Par­lia­ment House and also set some con­tain­ers to fire be­fore ar­riv­ing out­side the build­ing where fiery anti- gov­ern­ment speeches are be­ing de­liv­ered. Riot police had used tear gas and ba­tons to dis­perse the stone-pelt­ing crowd from the high-se­cu­rity zone out­side the par­lia­ment build­ing.

Sev­eral ma­jor ar­ter­ies lead­ing to Islamabad were closed by au­thor­i­ties to block the crowd's route. Cel­lu­lar ser­vices were sus­pended in the Red Zone and ad­join­ing ar­eas be­fore dawn on Mon­day. Sun­day's protest was al­most en­tirely ig­nored by the me­dia, which has in­creas­ingly be­come sub­ject to gov­ern­ment-or­dered news black­outs de­signed to pre­vent un­rest from spi­ralling out of con­trol.

Reg­u­la­tory body Pemra had cau­tioned chan­nels against "jeop­ar­dis­ing the Na­tional Ac­tion Plan" and said they should avoid cov­er­age "driven by crass com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion like in In­dia."

Qadri, was work­ing as a body­guard for Pun­jab gover­nor Sal­maan Taseer when he shot him 29 times in 2011 over the gover­nor's call to re­form the blas­phemy law, which crit­ics say is fre­quently mis­used to op­press re­li­gious mi­nori­ties. Blas­phemy is a hugely sen­si­tive is­sue in Pak­istan, where even un­proven al­le­ga­tions can stir mob vi­o­lence and lynch­ings. Crit­ics in­clud­ing Euro­pean gov­ern­ments say the coun­try's blas­phemy laws are of­ten mis­used to set­tle per­sonal scores.

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