Pro-blasphemy law protests in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, killed at least six and injured more than 200 people, including security forces and civilians, before forcing the government to capitulate to the demonstrators’ demands on Monday.
On Monday, DAWN reported, “The government gave in to the demands of the protesters after a 20-day-long sit-in, and Zahid Hamid resigned as law minister.”
Citing local media reports, Afghanistan’s Khaama Press (KP) noted over the weekend that the protests had turned violent after the Islamabad-based government deployed, security troops consisting of police and Frontier Corps [FC] disband the crowd of the people who had organized a sit-in protest in the capital city.
“The protesters have reportedly set on fire several vehicles belonging to the police and other people while reports from Karachi city of the country suggest that similar protests were organized there as well,” adds KP.
DAWN reported over the weekend that authorities arrested at least 150 protesters before security forces left the capital.
Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) added:
Islamist party activists have clashed with security forces for a second day on the outskirts of Islamabad, burning vehicles before withdrawing to a protest camp they have maintained for nearly three weeks.
The violence on November 26 came a day after clashes between the hard-line Islamist protesters and Pakistani security forces killed at least six people, and injured more than 200 others—many of them police hit by stones that were thrown by the protesters.
DAWN reveals that at least 60 police officers, 45 FC troops, and 50 civilians were among those injured.
On November 25, Pakistan’s Interior Ministry reportedly authorized the deployment of “sufficient” military troops to “control law and order” in the city until further notice.
However, military forces did not show up, leaving police and paramilitary troops to deal with the unrest in Islamabad’s the Faizabad District.
DAWN noted that an estimated 8,500 elite police and paramilitary troops in riot gear participated in the anti-protest operation.
“About 2,000 protesters have maintained the camp since November 6, blocking a main road into Islamabad that is used by thousands of commuters coming from the nearby garrison city of Rawalpindi,” noted RFE/RL.
“But early on November 26, it was clear that the protest rally had grown to even larger numbers, including several thousand members of the Tehreek-e Labaik Ya Rasool Allah [We Are Here for You Prophet Muhammad] party,” it added.
By Monday, daily life in Islamabad had reportedly struggled to return to normalcy after the demonstrations “ended with the government surrendering unequivocally to the protesters’ demands,” pointed out DAWN.
For several days now, Islamabad had been “under siege” by hundreds of Muslim demanding strict adherence to the country’s anti-blasphemy laws and the resignation of the federal law minister accused of breaking them.
Law Minister Hamid resigned as part of the government’s capitulation to the protestors.
Demonstrators have called for the public hanging of alleged blasphemers, namely members of the Ahmadi Muslim community, which many Islamic radicals consider to be non-Muslim.
The laws mandate life imprisonment or the death sentence for those who are found guilty of insulting God, Islam, or religious leaders.
Although Pakistan has yet to carry out a blasphemy-linked death sentence, the laws have long fueled vigilante justice that has led to the killing of people accused of committing blasphemy.
Dawn notes that the Pakistani Islamist political parties of Tehreek-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwat and the Sunni Tehreek Pakistan (ST) also fueled the protests.
The Islamists are mainly protesting a change in Pakistan’s electoral law.
According to Deutsche Welle (DW), “The controversy erupted in October, when the government amended electoral laws, including the wording of an oath for lawmakers that dealt with a declaration of Prophet Muhammad as god’s final prophet. After protests from religious groups, the government restored the oath in its original form.”
Although the Pakistani government has repeatedly claimed the change in wording was the result of a “clerical error,” the protestors held Minister Hamid responsible for the change and have ordered Islamabad to fire him and charge him with committing blasphemy.
Islamabad removed the top government official, but it remains unclear if he was charged with blasphemy.