Pakistan: Life back to normal after protests end

By Islamuddin Sajid

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AA) – Education institutions, roads and markets reopened on Saturday across the country after the government reached an agreement with religious groups last night, an official said.

"The protest has been called off after government accepted our demands and signed an agreement with our party" Peer Muhammad Afzal Qadri, Patron in Chief of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan told reporters.

The religious groups agreed to call off the protest following government assurances of placing a travel ban on Aasia Bibi and no objection to a review petition against the verdict in the top court.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court acquitted Aasia Bibi, a christian women, who had been sentenced to death by a district court in November 2010 for blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad.

Angry protesters, mainly the newly-emerged Sunni group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), blocked roads in the capital Islamabad, and other cities and towns, including Lahore, Karachi, Faisalabad, Multan, Peshawar, Quetta, Gujranwala, Gujrat, and Sialkot, suspending commercial and business activities and paralyzing traffic.

The government also closed all education institutions across the country due to blocking of roads and violent protests.

Intermittent incidents of violence, including burning of vehicles and pelting of security troops with stones were reported in some cities on social media, however, there was no confirmation of the reported violence. News channels did not cover the protests following government orders in an attempt to cool down mounting tensions.

However, the agreement signed by government ministers and TLP leaders read that the government has assured the religious groups to released all the people who were arrested by law enforcement agencies during the violent protest in different parts of the country.

Bibi has been kept at an undisclosed location for her safety.

Her brother James Masih told local English daily Dawn that his sister had no other option but to leave the country soon. France and Spain have already offered asylum to Bibi and her family.

Making up 3 percent of a total 210 million population, Christians are one of the two largest minorities in Muslim Pakistan.

In Pakistan, blasphemy against Islam or Prophet Muhammad is a criminal offense that can carry the death penalty. While the state has never executed anyone under the law, mere allegations have stirred mass protests and violence.

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