Pakistan saw countrywide protests, this time triggered by the acquittal of one Asia Bibi, a Christian woman in a blasphemy case by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Thousands of the protestors belonging to Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) while protesting the court’s decision came out to the streets and staged sit ins in the nook and corner of the country. The angry mob that blocked the roads in almost all the major cities of the country went on rampage to set vehicle ablaze and damage public properties. The official estimates put the damages done to the properties at over 70 billion rupees.

The angry protestors wanted the court to go back on its words and reverse the decision taken in favor of the Christian lady in a death row since 2010. Some of the TV footages depicted the people hitting cars with sticks and setting them on fire while others burning shops and government installations.

Leaders of the movement called off its protest demonstrations after they struck a deal with the government. The five-points agreement reached between the two parties says the government will not oppose the review petition filed against the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Asia Bibi’s blasphemy case. The agreement also promised to take appropriate legal action to address deaths that may have occurred during the protests against Asia Bibi’s verdict and to release all people arrested during the protests. In the agreement the government also promised that it would take all legal measures for putting Asia Bibi on the Exit Control List (ECL).

The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasoolullah, better known as Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) has, though called off its protest after successful dialogues with the government benches. However; the message is clear and louder. They can stage a comeback at any stage they want to, if the government did not honor terms of the agreement.

The government attracted condemnation for bowing to the pressure of a religio-political party that paralyzed state operations for almost 3 long days during its sit in that started on October 30 after the courts verdict.

“The agreement means that government was brought to it knees”. By inking the agreement with religious fanatics, the government has shown the way to others to follow if any party has to make the government come to its terms”, says Dr. Inamullah Khan, a professor of Political Science at Islamic University, Islamabad.

The government, however; has its own list of compulsions. “We did not want bloodshed in the Naya (new) Pakistan”. “We wanted to settle the issue peacefully”, said Mr. Shehryar Khan Afridi, Minister of State for Interior while giving a policy statement in the parliament.

This is not the first time. On November 5, last year, the Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan staged a sit in at the Faizabad Interchange to contest changes in the election bill 2017 in which the word oath was changed to declaration.

The protestors said introduction of the bill in the parliament was an attempt aimed at declaring ‘Qadyanis’ as Muslims.

Qadyanis represents a sect that has been already declared non-Muslims through the 1973 constitution of Pakistan.

The protesters demanded resignation of Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid to ‘protect the identity of the country’. The protestors finally achieved the objectives by striking a deal with the government that put an end to the countrywide protests, which continued for 20 long days. Resultantly, the minister for law and justice had to step down on November 26, 2017.

Tehreek-e-Labbaik emerged as one of the leading political party by grabbing 2.5 million of the total votes polled in the general elections 2018.

Owing to the increasing public pressure and international human rights watch, the government has initiated a crackdown on the workers of the TLP. Over 2000 protestors have been arrested so far. Federal Minister for Information Mr. Fawad Chaudhry said at a press conference that his government would spare not a single person who was found involved in damaging public properties during its protest demos.

The TLP leadership has however; warned of dire consequences if the government went back on the terms of agreement. “We can come back on the streets with more vigor this time, if government failed to honor the agreement”, said Khadim Hussain Rizvi, head of the TLP.

Political analysts believe the government action may involve risk of violence. “This is very sensitive issue”. “One can easily exploit the situation to gather thousands of faithfuls in the name of Islam”, says Brigadier Said Nazir, a retired army officer and a security analyst in Islamabad.

Maulana Fazl Ur Rahman, President of Muttahida Majlas-e-Amal (MMA), a conglomerate of five religio-political parties while addressing a huge gathering at Karachi wowed to continue their struggle across the country for the ‘protection of the blasphemy law’.

Criticizing Supreme Court’s verdict to acquit Asia Bibi in the blasphemy case, the Maulana said the decision was taken owning to the increasing pressure from the international forces what he would call a ‘Jewish lobby’.

The workers of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-S) has also planned countrywide protests on Friday November 9 to protest the tragic death of its leader Maulana Sami Ul Haq who was killed by unknown killers a couple of days ago.

Maula Sami’s party (JUI-S) was also part of the countrywide protests whose workers came to the streets to join the TLP staged sit in in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

The current political situation in the country resulting in the growing sense of frustrations amongst the masses call for immediate but concrete steps to get things under control. “The government should play its cards very carefully and wisely”, maintained an Islamabad based political analyst Hassan Khan.

11/09/2018 - Any reproduction, copy, transmission or translation of this publication is prohibited.

The daughters of Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi pose with an image of their mother while standing outside their residence in Sheikhupura located in Pakistan's Punjab Province November 13, 2010
De Ashraf Ali