Pakistan blasphemy protests to end after deal struck

Pakistan's hardline Islamists called off nation-crippling protests on Friday after striking a deal with the government on the legal future of a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy.

Supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan party (TLP) had held three days of sit-ins and demonstrations after the Supreme Court of Pakistan overturned mother-of-five Asia Bibi's blasphemy conviction, ending her eight years on death row.

Read more: Islamists block roads in Pakistan over Asia Bibi blasphemy case

What is the deal?

Government ministers and TLP officials confirmed to news outlets they had struck a deal, under which:

  • Protests will end.
  • Arrested protesters will be released without charge.
  • The government will not block a review of the ruling.
  • Bibi will be banned from leaving the country.

Why are Islamists angry?

Blasphemy is a serious offense in the Islamic Republic. Bibi was originally sentenced to death for allegedly making derogatory remarks about the prophet Muhammad when a Muslim neighbor objected to her drinking from their glassware as she was not a Muslim.

The Supreme Court overturning her conviction was seen as a capitulation to foreign pressure and an affront to Islamic sensibilities.

Read more: Opinion: Bibi verdict avoids Pakistan's blasphemy problem

What do they want?

Protesters want the case reviewed, an often-years-long process, and her eventual public hanging. Despite the lengthy process however, the court rarely reverses its own rulings.

aw/bw (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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