Pakistan begins return to normalcy as protesters end sit-ins across country

Updated November 03, 2018


Public transport resumed in Lahore. — Photo courtesy: Nauman Liaquat
Public transport resumed in Lahore. — Photo courtesy: Nauman Liaquat

Pakistanis welcomed a tentative return to normalcy on Saturday following an agreement between the far-right political party Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and the government after three days of violent protests that choked various cities and throttled economic activity.

In Islamabad and Karachi, traffic returned to normal after protesters ended sit-ins and road blockages were removed over the night.

According to a notification issued by the Sindh Home Department, a province-wide ban under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code which had been placed on October 31 and was to remain for 10 days, has now been withdrawn.

Life returned to normalcy in Lahore after the largest group of TLP supporters wrapped up their protests late Friday night. Road blockages that had crippled the city have been removed and traffic has now begun to flow unimpeded. Public schools have also re-opened, though attendance remained thin on the first day.

According to DawnNewsTV, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA), a faction of the TLP which was not a signatory to the agreement reached yesterday and had continued its sit-in at Data Darbar, has now ended it's protest as well.

The faction reached a deal with the government on Saturday night, similar to the one agreed upon by TLP, with the exception that this agreement contained no apology from TLYRA.

Protests in Peshawar had ended soon after the deal between the TLP and the government was finalised last night. Road blockages around the city have also been removed.

Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman had headed a rally in Peshawar on Friday, but ended it after his address. He was scheduled to join the TLP camp later but was advised by police not to follow through due to security risks.

In Quetta, though religio-political parties had held rallies, no sit-ins had been reported.

The TLP and other religiopolitical parties had launched countrywide protests on Wednesday after the Supreme Court acquitted Aasia Bibi, who had been on death row for the past nine years on blasphemy charges.

Last night, the government and the TLP had signed a deal to conclude the latter's nationwide protest. One of the major concessions the government agreed to was to "initiate the legal process" to place Aasia Bibi's name on the exit control list (ECL).

The government had also assured the party that it would not oppose a review petition filed against the Supreme Court's judgement in the Aasia Bibi blasphemy case. The state further promised to take appropriate legal action to redress any deaths that may have occurred during the protests against the Aasia Bibi verdict and to release all people picked up in connection with the protests starting October 30.

The TLP, in turn, only offered an apology "if it hurt the sentiments or inconvenienced anyone without reason".

With reporting by Imtiaz Ali in Karachi, Sirajuddin in Peshawar, Javed Hussain in Islamabad, Hafeezullah Sherani in Quetta and Nauman Liaquat in Lahore.