The BBC reported of large scale demonstrations throughout Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, following the Easter massacre of 70 Christians by a suicide bomber in Lahore. But the roughly 25,000 protesters weren’t protesting against terrorism. They were protesting in favor of a convicted murderer– in favor of terrorism and Shari’a blasphemy laws.
Calling themselves, “Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool (SAW)” and “Sunni Tehreek,” the protestors rioted along the way to Islamabad, torched a bus station, and damaged cars, motorcycles, and other property. During the riots, police and paramilitary units resorted to using tear gas and water cannons against the crowd. Some 3,000 remained after the riots, staging a sit-in near the Parliament.
Protesters support Mumtaz Qadri, a terrorist executed in February for murdering the governor of the Punjab, Salman Taseer– because Taseer opposed Shari’a blasphemy laws. (Mumtaz Qadri was Taseer’s bodyguard when he was murdered in 2011.) Which means they also support blasphemy laws.
Blasphemy laws exist in every Islamic-controlled country, which criminalize “offensive speech” against the Qur’an, Allah, and Muhammad. Seventy percent of Middle Eastern and North African countries, 31 percent of countries in the Americas, and 16 percent of European countries criminalize blasphemy.
SAW submitted a list of demands, including the execution of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five who was accused of blasphemy in 2010 after she argued with a Muslim woman over a bowl of water. Bibi has been on death row since 2010 and is now considered an international celebrity. Its demands reportedly include:
- Recognition of Qadri as a martyr,
- Conversion of his jail cell into a national heritage site,
- Unconditional release of all Sunni clerics in prison (including those on terrorism and murder charges),
- Assurances that blasphemy laws will remain intact, and that all
- Ahmadis and non-Muslims in key government posts be removed from office.
Police confirmed on Tuesday that roughly 300 people were arrested, mostly those who belong to “outlawed or extremist groups.”