Pakistan govt accused of caving in to Asia Bibi protesters

Human rights body says agreement to travel ban on Catholic woman is 'a mockery of the rule of law'
Pakistan govt accused of caving in to Asia Bibi protesters

Supporters of Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan hold a protest in Islamabad on Nov. 2 against the acquittal of Asia Bibi. Pakistan's government has been criticized for agreeing to the group's demands. (Photo courtesy of TLP media)

ucanews.com reporter, Karachi
Pakistan
November 5, 2018
Pakistan's independent human rights body has condemned the government's inability to preserve "the writ of the state" during protests that erupted after the acquittal of Catholic woman Asia Bibi in a blasphemy case.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) condemned the government's submissive response to protests by Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), terming the rapid agreement to the group's demands as "a mockery of the rule of law."

"What was hailed as a landmark judgment and a human rights victory unraveled into a situation in which there was no distinction between the peaceful right to dissent and the thuggery of mobs who claimed a moral right to wreak public havoc, to attack citizens and law enforcement personnel, to wantonly destroy property and to incite hatred against religious minorities," said HRCP in a statement on Nov. 4.

"HRCP strongly urges the government to take an unequivocal and consistent stand against groups and individuals that have no qualms about employing violent, extraconstitutional means to have their way."

The demonstrations led by TLP chief and founder Khadim Hussain Rizvi had reached their third day across the country, resulting in massive destruction of private and public property by vandals, until the state and protesters reached an agreement on Nov. 2

The government agreed to a travel ban preventing Bibi from leaving the country and said it would not object to groups appealing the Supreme Court verdict on Oct. 31 that overturned her conviction for blasphemy and ordered her release from prison.

The mother of five was sentenced to death in 2010 on charges of making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad during an argument with a Muslim farm worker.

Her lawyer Saiful Malook has fled the country after threats against his life. "My family is also facing an immense security threat and the federal government should provide security for them," he told Pakistani newspaper Express Tribune

Bibi remains in Pakistan at an undisclosed location despite an appeal for asylum made by her husband Ashiq Masih to U.S. President Donald Trump.

Jemima Goldsmith, former wife of Prime Minister Imran Khan, also criticized the Pakistani government for caving in to protesters

"Not the Naya (new) Pakistan we'd hoped for. 3 days after a defiant & brave speech defending the judiciary, Pakistan's gov caves in to extremist demands to bar #AsiaBibi from leaving Pak after she was acquitted of blasphemy, effectively signing her death warrant," she wrote on Twitter.

"Still hoping there's some plan afoot which we don't know about."

Twitter suspended the verified account of TLP chief Rizvi on Nov. 4 after the government and Twitter users reported his account for hate speech and violence.

Meanwhile, the government said in a statement that it would identity and take legal action against vandals who damaged public and private property. It has urged citizens to help identify agitators.

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