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Islamists Protest Acquittal In Pakistani Blasphemy Case For Third Day After Talks Fail


Third Day Of Protests At Pakistan Blasphemy Case
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WATCH: Third Day Of Protests At Pakistan Blasphemy Case

Hard-line Pakistani Islamists blocked roads in major cities for a third day on November 2 in protest against the acquittal of a Christian woman on death row for blasphemy allegations.

The Tehrik-e Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party said its talks with the government have failed and called on its followers to get ready for a confrontation with police.

"Talks have completely failed, Federal and provincial representatives and an Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) General Faiz took part in talks," Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the leader of the TLP, said in a tweet early on November 2.

"Government has warned, 'we will finish you off'," Rizvi said.

Cell-phone services have been suspended in many parts of the country, making communication difficult.

In a televised national broadcast late on November 1, Prime Minister Imran Khan warned the protesters the government would act against any prolonged blockade.

"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."

Supporters of Tehrik-e Labaik protest on November 2 in Karachi.
Supporters of Tehrik-e Labaik protest on November 2 in Karachi.

Protesters from the TLP continued to block roads in the southern city of Karachi and eastern Lahore, Pakistani television said. Private schools in both cites were shut, as well as in the capital, Islamabad.

One TLP speaker exhorted a crowd to light new fires if the police managed to douse burning tires and other objects they had already set ablaze.

The demonstrators were protesting the Pakistani Supreme Court's decision on October 31 to acquit and release Asia Bibi, a mother of five who had been living on death row since 2010. She was the first woman sentenced to death by hanging under Pakistan's tough blasphemy laws.

Asia Bibi
Asia Bibi

Bibi was accused of making derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbors objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not a Muslim.

But a three-judge panel set up to hear the appeal, headed by Chief Justice Sahib Nissan, ruled the evidence was insufficient.

Authorities say they have stepped up security near an undisclosed detention facility where Bibi is being held for her safety, with some reports in local media suggesting she might have already been flown out of Pakistan due to safety concerns.

Bibi's family had expected her release on November 1. Her husband, Ashiq Masih, returned from Britain with their children and was waiting for her release so that they can fly out of Pakistan. Though the family has not disclosed the country of her destination, France and Spain have offered asylum.

The case has divided Pakistan, where two politicians who sought to help Bibi were assassinated, and outraged Christians worldwide, with Pope Francis saying he has personally prayed for Bibi.

The case prompted calls from the TLP for the assassination of Nissan and the other two judges that decided the case.

"They all three deserve to be killed," TLP co-founder Muhammad Fatal Badri told a protest in Lahore. "Either their security, their driver, or their cook should kill them."

He also called for the ouster of Khan's new government and urged army officers to rise up against powerful military chief General Lamar Jawed Baja.

Hafiz Saeed, an influential Islamist whom the United States accuses of being the mastermind of attacks in Mumbai in 2008 that killed 166, has called for protests after Friday Prayers on November 2.

With reporting by AP and Reuters
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