mumtaz qadri supporters

Mumtaz Qadri supporters in Islamabad defy calls to disperse

Protests by thousands of Islamists in Islamabad have continued outside Pakistan’s parliament building after the government abandoned a series of deadlines for them to end the demonstration.

The government failed to carry out its threat to use force to clear an estimated 2,000 people from the sensitive site at the heart of the capital on Tuesday night, despite assembling thousands of riot police and giving the protesters a two-hour warning.

Another ultimatum of 10am on Wednesday also passed without action to disperse the crowd, while the government-ordered shutdown of all mobile phone networks in the city entered a fourth day.

Thousands of hardline Barelvis stormed into Islamabad on Sunday to protest against the execution last month of Mumtaz Qadri, the former police bodyguard who killed Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, in 2011.

Qadri is a hero to many followers of the Barelvi school of Sunni Islam, which has an especially deep reverence for the prophet Muhammad.

Taseer had incurred their wrath after daring to criticise the country’s blasphemy laws. While critics say the laws are used to victimise religious minorities, the Barelvis believe they are essential for protecting the honour of the holy characters of early Islamic history.

The protesters had initially assembled on Sunday in the nearby city of Rawalpindi to take part in Qadri’s chehlum, a ceremony that usually takes place 40 days after someone’s death.

They then marched on the capital, surprising the government who appeared unprepared.

Police fired teargas shells as protesters set fire to trucks, shipping containers and smashed newly constructed bus stations on Islamabad’s main avenue. Later the government ordered the shutdown of mobile phone networks in the city.

Anxious to avoid more violence, the government seemed determined to let the city authorities negotiate a peaceful withdrawal by the protesters.

Senior clerics at the site have issued a list of demands, including the execution of the Christian woman convicted of blasphemy whom Taseer had tried to defend. They also demanded the immediate implementation of strict sharia law and the expulsion from Pakistan of all members of the Ahmadiyya community, a minority sect Islamists accuse of being non-Muslims.

“We won’t move from this place until and unless all 10 demands are accepted,” said Ashraf Asif Jalali, one of the protest leaders. “Our workers are willing to die. If the government takes action they will not run away but face the bullets. They are not armed with guns but with clubs.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>