Anti-blasphemy Protesters Clash With Police In Pakistan


Thousands of protesters have clashed with police near parliament in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, against the execution of a man charged with murdering a governor for his criticism of blasphemy laws.  Police fired tear gas to stop an estimated 25,000 protesters, some of whom tried to forcibly enter the security zone of the capital, dubbed the red zone.

Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said that military was called in to take over security in the red zone.  “Their main task will be to secure the zone that includes parliament, Pakistan Television, the foreign office, the Supreme Court and diplomatic enclave,” he said. Protesters marched from the garrison town of Rawalpindi to Islamabad in solidarity with Mumtaz Qadri, who was charged and executed for the murder of Punjab province governor Salman Taseer.

“The crowd is massive and the police used blockades and tear gas on protesters as they were getting out of control,” Sami Yousafzai, who was present at the protest site told Al Jazeera. “They want the blasphemy law to be active and anyone who says anything blasphemous about Prophet Muhammad should be executed.”

Taseer was shot 28 times by Qadri, his bodyguard, in January 2011 for defending a Christian woman jailed on blasphemy charges. The protest leaders said they would hold a sit-in until their demands were met, but did not specify what their demands were.