Sunday, November 19, 2017

Pakistan: Government postpones action against Islamist protesters after 'final' deadline passes

Hundreds of supporters of a religious party have been blocking the route for nearly 10 days, demanding minister of law be sacked for what they say committing a blasphemy.

Photo: Asad Hashim
Times of Ahmad | News Watch | Int'l Desk
Source/Credit: TRT World
By Web Desk | November 18, 2017

Pakistan's government on Saturday postponed by 24 hours an action by security forces against protesters who have been blocking a route into the capital for nearly 10 days.

According to local media outlet, the orders to allow the protesters more time to disperse came from Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal shortly after security personnel reached the blocked road in Faizabad area.

The orders to delay the operation followed a dialogue between authorities and protesters, it said.

 The government has decided to hold another round of talks with leaders of the protesters later today, added.

Hundreds of supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan party have been demanding the minister of law be sacked for what they say is blasphemy.

"Final warning"

On Friday, government authorities issued a final warning for protesters to disperse.

"You all are being given a last warning," the Islamabad deputy commissioner said in the order.

A court had already ordered the party to end the protest, the order added.

"After this final announcement, you all are being warned to end the illegal sit-in immediately."

"All resources can be used to break this sit-in," the deputy commissioner's warning said.

Tehreek-e-Labaik blames the minister, Zahid Hamid, for changes to an electoral oath that it says amount to blasphemy.

The government puts the issue down to a clerical error.

Pakistan's blasphemy law is a lightning rod for most of the country's religious parties, especially since 2011 when the liberal governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was murdered by a bodyguard for questioning it.

The law mandates the death penalty for insulting Islam or the Prophet Mohammad.

A spokesman for the Labaik party, Ejaz Ashrafi, said the group would not comply with the deputy commissioner's ultimatum.

The government has blocked several roads with shipping containers in an effort to corral the protesters, causing hours-long traffic jams in and around the capital.

In 2007, a confrontation between authorities and supporters of radical preachers at an Islamabad mosque led to more than 100 deaths.

Read original post here: Pakistan: Government postpones action against protesters after 'final' deadline passes

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