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Politics

Khan strikes agreement with blasphemy hardliners to avert violence

The government's shaky deal with religious hardliners, enraged over a court's ruling clearing a Christian woman of blasphemy charges, has left her family fearing for her safety.

Pakistan Forward and AFP


Men in Karachi watch as Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the nation following the Supreme Court decision overturning the conviction of Christian woman Asia Bibi October 31. Khan hit out at hardliners and appealed for calm after extremists called for the country's Supreme Court justices to be murdered and Bibi to be hanged for blasphemy. [ASIF HASSAN/AFP]

Men in Karachi watch as Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the nation following the Supreme Court decision overturning the conviction of Christian woman Asia Bibi October 31. Khan hit out at hardliners and appealed for calm after extremists called for the country's Supreme Court justices to be murdered and Bibi to be hanged for blasphemy. [ASIF HASSAN/AFP]

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan remains fractured over the fate of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman cleared of blasphemy charges last week by the Supreme Court.

On October 31, Pakistan's top judges overturned her conviction, explaining it was based on flimsy evidence and ending Bibi's eight-year ordeal on death row.

But the decision enraged Islamist hardliners who took to the streets, blockaded major cities, engaged in violence and demanded Bibi's immediate execution.

The protests calling for Bibi's execution were spearheaded by the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan party (TLP), a new political party known for whipping up anger over blasphemy issues.

Last year, the TLP, which was founded in 2015, blockaded the capital of Islamabad for several weeks, demanding stricter enforcement of Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws. That protest forced the resignation of the federal law minister under the previous government.

Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the nation after the Supreme Court ruling on Bibi's verdict, calling for calm and vowing to confront the protesters head on.

"We will protect property and lives; we will not allow any sabotage," Khan said in a nationally televised speech.

Khan's speech drew widespread praise from his detractors, who had long accused him of courting extremists and for defending the blasphemy laws.

Khan strikes a deal

The protests over Bibi's case came to a tenuous end once Khan's administration agreed to a deal with the religious hardliners, where Bibi would remain in Pakistan as a final review of the Supreme Court's ruling takes place.

But the TLP issued a warning late Monday (November 5) saying it was prepared to take to the streets again as reports claimed that dozens of the group’s activists had been arrested.

"If you breach the agreement, then remember that the entire country will stand up against you," said TLP leader Afzal Qadri in a Facebook post.

Khan's government did not appear to have a strategy in place for following through on the promise to confront the protests, which were quickly snow-balling, say critics.

"The government seems to be directionless, and it does not seem to have a proper strategy," said political commentator Fasi Zaka. "The government has just bought time, and we're still waiting to see what it does."

"The government must act against the TLP to sustain its popularity," said security analyst Muhammad Amir Rana.

Khan's administration continued to defend the deal Monday, arguing the agreement had averted violence.

"We dispersed them in a peaceful way, which is an achievement," Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said.

Bibi in legal limbo

Khan's shaky deal with the religious hardliners has left Bibi in legal limbo and her family fearing for her safety. Her husband has appealed to Britain and the United States among other countries to grant the family asylum.

Bibi's lawyer, Saif-ul-Malook, who has fled to the Netherlands, said the United Nations and the European Union pressured him to leave Pakistan because his life was in danger.

"They were of the view that I was the prime target to be killed and that my life was in imminent danger," he said Monday at a news conference at The Hague. "I am not happy to be here without her, but everybody said that you are the prime target at the moment and the whole world is taking care of Asia Bibi."

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Comment bubble | 11-21-2018

Curse on your rubbish post.

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Comment bubble | 11-19-2018

The cursed who have sympathies with that cursed woman, should get out to Holland and Israel. This country was created in the name of Islam. Only Islamic laws will be implemented here. And law of Islam suggests capital punishment for the one who disrespects Allah’s Prophet.

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Comment bubble | 11-17-2018

You are enemies of Islam; curse on your reporting

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Comment bubble | 11-17-2018

The cursed who have sympathies with that cursed woman, should get out to Holland and Israel. This country was created in the name of Islam. Only Islamic laws will be implemented here. And law of Islam suggests capital punishment for the one who disrespects Allah’s Prophet.

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Comment bubble | 11-16-2018

No doubt extremists are not good, but what about your two lower courts and Investigator of Asia Case, S.P. Investigation? are they also extremists? if yes, then what proof do you have? According to your European thinking, it doesn’t matter even if whole the country gets slaughtered, but one Asia, the Christian, needs to be saved. How many Muslims have been killed till now for that Christian? but no one has said a word. Till now extremist Jews and Christians have exercised their own will in Europe, but then there were heavy locks on tongues of those moderates. These moderates couldn’t say a word for Afia, who is being penalized without a crime; where was there modesty then? Their tongues don’t move because Europe and America get angry for that. If some Muslim talks about his religion, he is declared extremist. Alas! you came out to be soul seller.

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Comment bubble | 11-13-2018

Sons of extremist! Was it not extremism when your father, America was killing innocent children of Iraq, Syria, and Libya Aleppo?? They are weakening law of Pakistan, is it not extremism?? And today you are calling religious segment as extremists,, you are not even ashamed,, you are calling the clerics extremists, who are talking about constitution and law of Pakistan,, curse on your journalism,, and curse on your training.

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Comment bubble | 11-13-2018

If talking about honor of Holly Prophet or guarding his respect is extremism for you, then we are extremists an we will commit this crime time and again.

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Comment bubble | 11-12-2018

What rubbish, talking about holocaust is prohibited in whole the world, while holocaust is itself based on a mere lie. Would you tell us why is it prohibited to talk about a lie like hollow cast.

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Comment bubble | 11-11-2018

You sons of extremists! Is that not extremism that your father America is killing children of Iraq Syria and Libya through bombardment, is she not extremist??? Is it not extremism that they are weakening Law of Pakistan??? Now they are saying that religious people are extremists,,, you people are not even ashamed,,, you call those clerics as extremists who are talking about constitution and law of Pakistan. Curse be on your journalism, curse be on your training.

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Comment bubble | 11-11-2018

Your biasness is evident from the fact that the photos of protest you have pasted are presenting horrible scene and photos of that cursed woman are full of innocence. You must first learn responsible journalism before advising others.

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Comment bubble | 11-11-2018

All other things aside, but remember that blasphemy law is not controversial. Every Pakistani Muslim is with this law for its protection. It is no wisdom or journalism to write others’ words in our language. In our country write our language in our words, don’t become so cheap in getting in good books of west. You may conduct a survey in Pakistan if you have doubt about this law. This law is exactly as per our wishes and there is no controversy about this law in Pakistan.

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Comment bubble | 11-11-2018

Facts were molded being biased.. Asia Bibi and her family have got no problems… if she was to be eliminated, it would have been done at the spot.

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Comment bubble | 11-10-2018

Curse be on your reporting and your thinking, slave of Jews!

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Comment bubble | 11-10-2018

Wrong reporting, allegations of extremism on religious people are baseless. Real terrorists are those who’s deeds are against the rightfulness. Islam is not terrorist, neither the followers of Islam can be terrorist. Real terrorists are politicians, who oppress the poor and get decisions of their own benefit, who fight, abuse, kill and instruct killings.

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Comment bubble | 11-10-2018

You are wrong and have no sense of reporting

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Comment bubble | 11-10-2018

Hmmmm

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Comment bubble | 11-09-2018

Only some bastard will support a blasphemer. Will you call people of religious party extremists.

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Comment bubble | 11-09-2018

Curse on your reporting. The Muslims taking sides of Islam are being called extremists.

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Reply comment | 11-10-2018

curse be on you and your family as you have used the word extremist for lovers of Islam and you have identified your origin and got yourself stand beside the cursed Asia.

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