Islamabad: Pakistan on Tuesday arrested nearly 750 supporters of Mumtaz Qadri, executed for killing former Punjab governor Salman Taseer, even as protests here continued with agitators refusing to leave until the government accepts their demand of declaring the Islamist assassin a ‘martyr’. Over 25,000 protesters had entered and besieged Islamabad’s high-security zone on Sunday, damaging public buildings and breaking barriers that had been erected.
While most of them left on Monday, a few hundred are still continuing their sit-ins outside the Parliament House and other key government installations for the third day on Tuesday. A senior police official said that about 750 protesters have been arrested since Monday.
“Those arrested have been sent to various jails of Punjab. Others are being kept at police stations in Islamabad,” he said. The protesters led by Sunni Tehreek and Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool religious groups entered the so-called high-security Red Zone after bloody clashes with police in which 42 security officials and 16 citizens have been injured so far. They are demanding implementation of Shariah in the country and declaring Qadri, who was hanged on February 29, a “martyr”.
They also demanded release of their arrested leaders and declaring Qadri’s Adiala Jail cell in Rawalpindi into a national heritage and execution of blasphemy convict Christian women Aasia Bibi who was sentenced to death in 2010 by a court. Qadri, who was Taseer’s security guard, has killed the sitting governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous state, in 2011 after he visited Aasia Bibi in her jail cell and expressed support for her, even promising a presidential pardon to the mother-of-five.