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Roads blocked in Pakistan over blasphemy case

November 1, 2018

Many schools were closed in Pakistan as Islamist groups blocked roads and rallied against the acquittal of Asia Bibi in a flashpoint blasphemy case. An Islamist leader called for Supreme Court judges to be killed.

Pakistan protest over Bibi verdict
Image: Getty Images/AFP/R. Tabassum

Pakistani authorities deployed troops to guard state buildings in major cities as Islamist protests over Asia Bibi entered their second day on Thursday. Supporters of the extremists Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party blocked 10 roads around Pakistan's biggest city, Karachi, several others outside Lahore and one major entry to the capital Islamabad.

Private schools in all three cities were closed.

Islamists launched protests after the country's Supreme Court ruled to acquit Bibi of blasphemy in a widely publicized case. Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan.

TLP co-founder Muhammad Afzal Qadri told his supporters in Lahore that members of the three-judge panel that dismissed the charges should be killed.

"All three deserve to be killed," Qadri said at a protest in Lahore. "Either their security, their driver or their cook should kill them."

Qadri also said the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan should be forced to step down and urged military officers to rebel against powerful military head Javed Bajwa.

Read more: Bibi verdict avoids Pakistan's blasphemy problem

'We will not allow traffic to be blocked'

TLP spokesman Pir Ejaz Shah had earlier told DW that the group "will embrace death but will not compromise on our stance" in the blasphemy case.

On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Khan urged the protesters not to "test the patience of the state."

"We will not allow any damages. We will not allow traffic to be blocked," Khan said. "I appeal to you, do not push the state to the extent that it is forced to take action."

Pakistan's Christian slums hide a persecuted minority

Another Islamist group, the Milli Yakjehti Council, is meeting to discuss its response and possible protests over the Bibi case on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Asia Bibi's brother told the AP news agency that the mother of four is set to leave Pakistan. Her paperwork is being processed and she is preparing to leave an undisclosed location where she is being held for security reasons. The brother did not say which country Bibi is traveling to. Both France and Spain have already offered her asylum.

dj/sms (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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