Supporters of Taseer’s killer cling to protests in Islamabad, enter Red Zone

Security officials guard a road leading towards Parliament building after clashes between protesters and police a day earlier during a protest over the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, in Islamabad on Monday.  

Hundreds of supporters of Mumtaz Qadri, executed for killing liberal Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, on Tuesday refused to end their protests in the Pakistani capital until the government accepted their demand of declaring the Islamist assassin a “martyr.”

Over 25,000 protesters had entered and besieged Islamabad’s high-security zone on Sunday, damaging public buildings and breaking barriers that had been erected.

Some continue sit-ins

While most of them left on Monday, a few hundreds are still continuing their sit-ins outside the Parliament House and other key government installations for the third day on Tuesday.

The protesters led by Sunni Tehreek and Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool religious groups entered the so-called high-security Red Zone after bloody clashes with police in which 42 security officials and 16 citizens have been injured so far.

Want Shariah, Qadri declared martyr

The demonstrators are demanding implementation of Shariah in the country and declaring Qadri, who was hanged on February 29, a “martyr“.

They also demanded release of their arrested leaders and declaring Qadri’s Adiala Jail cell in Rawalpindi a national heritage and execution of blasphemy convict and Christian woman Aasia Bibi, who was sentenced to death in 2010 by a court.

Qadri, who was Taseer’s security guard, haf killed the sitting governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous state, in 2011 after he visited Aasia Bibi in her jail cell and expressed support for her, even promising a presidential pardon to the mother-of-five.

‘No negotiations’

Meanwhile, the protesters have refused to negotiate with the city administration but have shown willingness to hold talks with the army or top government officials.

“The government is active in defusing the tension and convincing the protesters to disperse peacefully. The policy is to follow restraint and avoid violence,” said a senior official of the federal government.

He said officials of Punjab government were also active to end the standoff.

Government may agree to free leaders

The government may agree to release the arrested leaders but it will not accept other demands, he said. The government estimates that it had suffered a loss of about 150 million rupees due to vandalism by the protesters. The terminals of Metro bus service have been badly damaged and the bus service had to be halted.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has also come under immense pressure from the media, civil society and opposition, for letting the protesters enter the Red Zone.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2022 1:39:57 PM |

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