Protesters in Pakistan staged a sit-in at the Parliament in the capital Islamabad yesterday. Yet they were not there to demand action against the Taliban terrorists who killed over 70 people in a suicide bombing in Lahore two days ago.
Instead they were protesting in support of Mumtaz Qadri, the terrorist who was executed in February for the murder of the governor of the Punjab, Salman Taseer, for the latter’s opposition to blasphemy laws. Mumtaz Qadri was Taseer’s bodyguard at the time of the murder which took place in 2011.
An estimated 25,000 people protested in the capital on Sunday in support of Qadri. Towards the evening they were fought riot police and paramilitary units who used tear gas and water cannons on the crowd. On their way into Islamabad they rioted, torching a bus station and damaging cars, motorcycles and other property.
Some 3,000 remained yesterday, staging a sit-in near the Parliament. They submitted a list of demands, including the execution of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five who was accused of blasphemy in 2010 after an argument with a Muslim woman over a bowl of water. She has been on death row since 2010 and has become an international cause-celebré.
Other demands reportedly include :
- Recognition of Qadri as a martyr
- Conversion of his jail cell into a national heritage site
- Unconditional release of all Sunni clerics in prison including those on terrorism and murder charges
- Assurances that blasphemy law
- Removal of Ahmadis and non-Muslims in key posts
The demands were issued by a group calling itself “Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool (SAW)” and the protests was also led by a group called “Sunni Tehreek.”
Police confirmed on Tuesday that some 300 arrests had been made, mostly of people belonging to outlawed or extremist groups.
They also said that several hundred protestors continued to demonstrate on Tuesday.
If Pakistani liberals are serious about forcing their government to take action against the Taliban and other extremist groups, they need to show the same level of determination and willingness to fight for their beliefs as the extremists who have demonstrated in such large numbers over the past few days.
Footage of the demonstrations reported on by Pakistani outlet Dawn: