Protests over acquittal of Christian end
ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani Islamist party has said it will call off protests over the acquittal of a Christian woman who faced hanging on blasphemy charges, striking a deal with the government to end three days of protests in major cities.
Under the deal, the government agreed to seek to bar Asia Bibi, a mother of five who has been on death row since 2010, from leaving the country, according to a document of the agreement shared by the ultra-Islamist Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) group. The government has confirmed the agreement. Bibi’s case has outraged Christians worldwide and been a source of division within Pakistan, where two politicians who sought to help her were assassinated. Islamist parties, whose rallying cry is for blasphemers to be killed, have framed Bibi’s impending release as the government caved in to Western demands.
Bibi was accused of making derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbours objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim. But a three-judge panel set up to hear the appeal ruled the evidence was insufficient. The top court’s decision had enraged the TLP, whose leaders took to the streets to call for the death of the judges who made the decision and the ousting of the government. Bibi’s whereabouts were not known on Friday. Her family was in hiding last week, with speculation rife that she would be secretly sent out of the country by the authorities.
The prospect of Bibi being allowed to leave Pakistan was unacceptable to the TLP’s political chief, Khadim Hussain Rizvi.
“There will be a war if they send Asia out of the country,” Rizvi said.
As part of the agreement, anyone arrested during the protests would be released. |