Pakistan government on Wednesday promised not to amend the country’s controversial blasphemy laws to end a major stand-off with thousands of Islamists who had besieged the capital city for four days, demanding “martyrdom” for the assassin of Punjab’s liberal governor Salman Taseer.
The protest leaders held talks with the government representatives which were “successful”, paving way for ending the protests peacefully without any bloodshed or violence.
According to the seven-point agreement between officials and protesters, the government assured the protesters that blasphemy laws will not be amended, a key demand of the supporters of Mumtaz Qadri, who was executed in late February, five-years after he assassinated Taseer over his calls to amend the blasphemy laws.
The government also agreed to release hundreds of “innocent” people arrested during the four-days old stand-off at Islamabad’s Red Zone.
The government also promised not to show any leniency towards anyone convicted for blasphemy.
However, there was no assurance on declaring Qadri a “martyr”, another key demand of protesters, and execution of blasphemy convict Christian women Aasia Bibi who was sentenced
to death in 2010 by a court.
Qadri, who was Tasser’s security guard, had killed the governor of Pakistan’s most populous state in 2011 after he visited Aasia Bibi in her jail cell and expressed support for her, even promising a presidential pardon to the mother-of- five.
To another demand of imposing Sharia in the country, it was decided that the clerics would submit detailed proposals to the ministry of religious affairs.
For checking alleged obscenity on media, the two sides agreed that protest leaders will file complaints to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority.
The peaceful resolution of the four-days old stand-off at Islamabad’s high-security zone comes as a major relief to the government, already under pressure after over 70 people, mostly Christians, were killed in a suicide blast in Lahore on Easter Sunday.
The protesters, numbering over 25,000 at their peak, had entered and besieged Islamabad’s Red Zone on Sunday, damaging public buildings and clashing with police in which 42 security
officials and 16 citizens were injured.
Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Islamic Pakistan, with even unproven allegations often triggering mob violence.
The controversial law was introduced by former military dictator Zia-ul Haq in 1980s and so far hundreds of people have been charged under it.