TLP activists protest against acquittal of Asia Bibi, block
roads in every city, govt decides to take them into confidence,
sources say Aasia to leave Pakistan soon or may already has left the country

Nation special report
LAHORE: The protests by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) workers against the acquittal of Christian woman Aasiya Bibi in blasphemy case continued for the second day on Thursday, paralysing daily life in various cities of the country. Roads were empty and certain routes were blocked in major cities. Although, most of the routes that were closed a day earlier in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad have now been opened been for traffic, some are still blocked. Trains and flights are, however, operating as per schedule.

On Wednesday, following the protests, Section 144 was imposed across Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan barring the gathering of more than four persons in public places as well as pillion riding. Section 144 has been imposed till November 10. Moreover, hospitals were put on high-alert to deal with any untoward situation arising out of the protests.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had also appealed the nation to remain vigilant against those who incite violence, warning that the state will take action against the violators to fulfil its duty of protecting the people.

LAHORE: Oct 31 – Activists of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasoolallah (TLYR) raise slogans during a sit-in protest at Faisal Chowk in front of the Punjab Assembly against the acquittal of Asia Bibi in blasphemy case. 

The Supreme Court had acquitted Aasiya Bibi on blasphemy charges on Wednesday after accepting her 2015 appeal against her sentence. On October 13, TLP chief Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi had threatened to “paralyse the country within hours if the Supreme Court set Aasiya Bibi free”.

Meanwhile, according to a media report, in order to pacify the aggressive protestors, the government has decided to hold talks with the protesters holding sit-ins across country. A five-member committee comprising ministers Fawad Chaudhry, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Shyeryar Afridi, Noor-ul-Haq Qadri and Mehboob Sultan has been constituted. Prime Minister Imran Khan has decided to settle the issue amicably and will himself monitor the progress.

Aasia may fly abroad

It is learnt that Aasia Bibi’s husband Ashiq Masih had reached Pakistan along with his family from Britain. Ashiq Masih reached Islamabad on Saturday where he was provided complete security by the law enforcement agencies.

Ashiq came to Pakistan with a view to shift his wife abroad in case she is freed by the Supreme Court.

Aasia Bibi is detained in Multan Jail from where she would be shifted to airport via helicopter. Jail authorities haven’t yet received official order for release. It is expected that she would move abroad in a couple of days or may already has been left the country.

Not on ECL

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf on Thursday issued a statement through its official Twitter handle saying the federal government does not plan to “put Asia Bibi’s name on the exit control list (ECL) or [file an] appeal for a review against the apex court’s verdict”.

It further clarified that the review petition was filed by the “concerned party which has nothing to do with the government”.

The complainant in the Asia Bibi case, Qari Muhammad Salaam, has filed a review petitiontoday through his counsel, Ghulam Mustafa, against the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Asia’s conviction in the blasphemy case.

The petitioner had also sought the placement of Asia’s name on the Exit Control List (ECL) till the judgement is reviewed.

Soon after the news broke, the ruling party issued this statement to clarify the government’s stance in this regard.

Moreover, Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari also took to Twitter to explain the federal government’s position.

Mazari further said that the government has taken the main opposition parties — both PML-N and PPP — on the matter and “will keep them posted about the developments”.

It is pertinent to mention that the confusion had been exacerbated by the party’s own information minister for Punjab, Fayyazul Hasan Chauhan, who reportedly made a statement to a TV channel saying the government would place Asia on the ECL.

Asia’s acquittal

In a landmark judgement, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned the death sentence of Christian woman Asia Bibi and ordered her immediate release from jail after around eight years.

“This appeal is allowed, the judgements of the [Lahore] high court as well as the trial court are reversed and consequently the conviction as also the sentence of death awarded to the appellant is set aside and she is acquitted of the charge,” announced CJP Nisar, who headed the bench that had reserved its ruling on her appeal on Oct 8.

Asia Bibi, a mother of five, was awarded capital punishment by a trial court in November 2010 for committing alleged blasphemy during an altercation with a Muslim woman in Sheikhupura over a glass of water in June 2009. The Lahore High Court upheld the decision of the trial court in its October 2014 ruling, which was finally reversed by the Supreme Court after hearing her appeal.

“Keeping in mind the evidence produced by the prosecution against the alleged blasphemy committed by the appellant, the prosecution has categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt,” the chief justice observed in the SC’s judgement.