Islamabad comes to a virtual standstill

Hundreds of supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan party have been blocked the road to Islamabad for nearly 10 days, demanding that the minister of law be sacked for what they term blasphemy. Pakistan’s government issued a final warning to members of a hard-line Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labaik who have blocked a main road into the capital since last week, raising fears of a violent clash as they refuse to budge. Islamabad deputy commissioner said in the order that “you all are being given a last warning.” A court had already ordered the party to end the protest.

Tehreek-e-Labaik blames the minister, Zahid Hamid, for changes to an electoral oath that it says amounts to blasphemy. The government puts the issue down to a clerical error.

Pakistan’s blasphemy law has become a lightning rod for Islamists, especially since 2011 when the liberal governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was murdered by a bodyguard for questioning the law that mandates the death penalty for insulting Islam or the Prophet Mohammad.

A government official, Khalid Abbasi, said the protesters had set up pickets along the route they are occupying manned by party members carrying iron rods and sticks.

 

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