The acquittal of Asia Bibi on Wednesday sparked rage and angry protests all over the country by various Islamist Parties, especially Tehreek e Labaik (TLP), a hardline religious political party which had previously vowed to take to the streets if Asia Bibi was freed. Bibi’s case gained prominence when former Governor of Pakistan, Salman Taseer, was killed in 2011 by his own body guard, for openly supporting her.
Within hours of the verdict being announced, long ques of traffic were being witnessed in major cities of Pakistan due to the blockage of roads as street protests broke out, paralyzing huge parts of these cities. Protestors pelted the police with stones, burnt tires, chanted slogans to hang Asia Bibi and displayed aggressive behavior.
In order to keep the citizens safe, schools have been closed down, supplementary examinations of Secondary School Certificates have been cancelled and hospitals are on high alert. Not only this, mobile phones and internet services have also suspended in different parts of the country.
The leaders of TLP have called for the death/murder of Chief Justice Saqib Nasir and the two other judges on the panel. “All three deserve to be killed. Either their security should kill them, their driver kill them, or their cook kill them,” TLP co-founder Muhammad Afzal Qadri said as he addressed a protest in Lahore. He also called on the Army to turn against General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who he said should be sacked from the army.
Later in the day, Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the nation amidst this chaos, supporting the court ruling and urging the religious parties to halt their protests and warned them to not push the state to an extent where they will be forced to take action. Khan stated that no country can run smoothly if its party leaders are encouraging their followers to resort to violence and kill Judges if they aren’t happy with the decisions made by them in court. “You are not aiding Islam by talking about killing judges and by killing our generals who have sacrificed so much for our country,” Khan said in defense of the verdicts.
The acquittal of Asia Bibi was a sign of hope for the religious minorities in Pakistan as many have already been targeted and sentenced to death over false accusations.
Bibi’s case was one which people from all over the world were aware of. Pope Francis met Asia’s husband and one of her daughter’s in February and told them that he is praying for Asia. Many people from around the globe have praised Pakistan since the verdict was announced. David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, an organization that lobbies on behalf of Christian minorities, said in a statement that “we are breathing a sigh of relief today. We are hopeful that Pakistan will now take additional steps to offer religious freedom and basic human rights throughout the country.” He said.