–Religious parties stage protests in Islamabad, Karachi over SC verdict to uphold Aasia’s acquittal
Workers of religious parties on Friday staged protests in major cities over the Supreme Court’s (SC) verdict to uphold the acquittal of Aasia Bibi while reports circulating in foreign media claim that the Christian woman, who was sentenced to death in a blasphemy case, has reunited with her family in Canada.
Aasia has arrived in Canada with her husband, German media reported Friday, quoting her lawyer.
“She is united with her family,” Aasia’s lawyer Saif-ul-Malook told the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper. She had earlier accepted the offer of asylum made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Aasia’s two daughters already live in Canada. The lawyer did not disclose any further details about Aasia’s departure from Pakistan, citing security reasons. It was previously reported that she could not leave her native country aboard a regular flight.
Aasia was arrested in June 2009 on the complaints of her neighbours. A year later, she was sentenced to death despite strong opposition from human rights groups.
Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) held protests in the capital to voice their demands against the acquittal of Aasia.
The JUI-F workers gathered outside the Islamabad Press Club while Section-144 was imposed in the capital after threats of possible protests by Labbaik.
Rangers were deployed on all entry points of Islamabad along with heavy contingents of police. The locals were asked to avoid unnecessary travel.
In Karachi, the police resorted to tear gas shelling and baton charge to disperse protesting activists of the TLP, officials and witnesses said.
At least 50 TLP workers were detained as the protesters demonstrated against the Supreme Court’s recent decision.
Following a protest call issued by the party, several TLP workers first started gathering at Sharfabad signal near Bahadurabad soon after Friday prayers.
DIG East Amir Farooqi said the police had already asked the party to desist from holding any protests. The officer claimed that the religious party’s workers pelted stones on moving vehicles, damaging the windows of many of them. They also allegedly damaged a police mobile.
“The police used baton charge and tear gas to disperse them,” he said.
DIG Farooqi confirmed that a total of 50 TLP workers were arrested after the violent protest was brought to an end.
“The police will register a case against them under Section 7 of the Anti Terrorism Act (ATA) over charges of terror and rioting as they resorted to pelting stones, and damaged private and public vehicles,” the senior official revealed.
In addition to Friday’s arrests, DIG Farooqi said 22 TLP workers were arrested from Korangi and six others from Gulistan-i-Jauhar area on Thursday night.
Police officials revealed that 12 more TLP workers were detained in the city’s West zone on Friday morning.
Around 1,500-2,000 TLP activists held a separate protest outside the Karachi Press Club (KPC) which resulted in prolonged traffic jams on the adjoining roads.
Artillery Maidan SHO Agha Aslam Pathan said no untoward incident was reported and the protesters dispersed from KPC peacefully.
Meanwhile, a TLP spokesperson claimed that the party had planned a “peaceful” protest march from Bahadurabad to KPC but that the police subjected their workers to “executive highhandedness” to foil their protest.
“However, hundreds of workers reached the press club and held a peaceful demonstration,” he added.
According to reports, Sindh Home Secretary Abdul Kabir Kazi had issued several orders, including the detention of TLP workers for 30 days under Section 3 (1) of the West Pakistan Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) of 1960.
According to the detention order, the TLP members were “in the habit [of] harass[ing] the general public and instigating mobs against the honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan in the judgEment of Aasia Bibi case and challenging the writ of the state by blocking public thoroughfares, damaging public property and creating panic among the masses”.
Therefore, the TLP workers, if not detained under the relevant law, will “create [an adverse] law and order situation and cause harassment amongst the general public, which will become [a] potential danger to public peace”, according to the orders.
The Sindh Inspector General of Police Dr Syed Kaleem Imam had recommended to the Sindh government to detain TLP workers for 30 days under MPO 1960, the orders further stated.