Around 700 pro-Mumtaz Qadri protesters continued to protest in Islamabad’s Red Zone on Tuesday, police official Mohammad Kashif confirmed, despite warnings from the government, bringing the most sensitive parts of the capital to a standstill.
A rally organised by the Sunni Tehreek (ST) saw more than 10,000 charged protesters enter the city on Sunday, damaging buildings and setting fire to the metro station, containers and buses.
A crowd consisting of around at least 25,000 people had attended the chehlum of former Punjab governor Salman Taseer’s killer, Mumtaz Qadri, in Rawalpindi’s Liaquatbagh earlier that day.
Mumtaz Qadri, an Elite Force commando, was executed at Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail on February 29. Qadri shot Taseer 28 times in broad daylight in Islamabad’s Kohsar Market on January 4, 2011.
Qadri said he killed Taseer over what he called the politician’s vocal opposition to blasphemy laws of the country. He was sentenced to death for assassinating Taseer on Oct 1 the same year.
The protesters while staging a sit-in in front of Parliament issued a list of 10 demands under the banner of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool (SAW), include the unconditional release of all Sunni clerics and leaders booked on various charges, including terrorism and murder; the recognition of Mumtaz Qadri as a martyr and the conversion of his Adiala Jail cell into a national heritage site; assurances that the blasphemy laws will not be amended; and the removal of Ahmadis and other non-Muslims who had occupied key posts.
They also demanded the execution of blasphemy accused Aasia Bibi, the woman former Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was killed for defending.
Over 700 protesters were picked up from parts of Islamabad and sent to various jails in Punjab, Dawn Newspaper learnt from officials of the capital police on Monday, and four separate cases were registered against 501 religious workers, including their leadership, under the Anti-Terrorism Act by police.
Tuesday’s sit-in continues despite Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Monday night address to the nation during which he warned radical Islamists not to take the government’s leniency as a sign of weakness.
The address followed a massive suicide bombing at Lahore’s Gulshan-i-Iqbal park in which at least 72 people were killed.
Hours after Sunday’s attack, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan Jamatul Ahrar claimed responsibility.
The army responded by launching raids on suspected militant hideouts across Punjab.
More than 300 suspects have been detained in the raids in the past 48 hours, a security official said.
Another official also confirmed nearly 300 arrests and said most of those detained were suspected to belong to outlawed militant and extremist groups.
The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to publicly speak to journalists.