Pakistan military: ‘patience’ tested ahead of mass protests

Pakistani rangers stand guard during a Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan protest on Wednesday, October 31, against the acquittal of a Christian woman for blasphemy. (AFP)
Updated 02 November 2018

Pakistan military: ‘patience’ tested ahead of mass protests

  • ‘We are tolerating remarks against us but action can be taken according to the law and constitution’
  • ‘Don’t force us into taking an action’

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s powerful military warned Friday its patience had been thoroughly tested after being threatened by Islamist hard-liners enraged by the acquittal of a Christian woman for blasphemy, as the country braced for more mass protests.
Spokesman Asif Ghafoor said the armed forces’ tolerance had been taken to its “threshold” after hard-liners called for a mutiny against its top brass earlier this week in response to the Supreme Court’s dismissal of blasphemy charges against Asia Bibi — ending her eight-year ordeal on death row.
Mobile services in major cities across Pakistan were down as religious parties prepared to hold another day of demonstrations against the Supreme Court’s decision.
“We are tolerating remarks against us but action can be taken according to the law and constitution,” the spokesman told state media.
“Don’t force us into taking an action,” he added.
Blasphemy is a massively inflammatory charge in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even unproven allegations of insulting Islam and its Prophet Muhammad can provoke death at the hands of vigilantes.
The protests are being largely led by the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan party, which is known for its hardline stance on blasphemy issues.
Officials said talks with the protesters were ongoing ahead of nationwide protests set to kick off after Friday prayers — the holiest day of the Islamic week and a time when the size of demonstrations can often swell.
Several mainstream religious parties were also set to hold separate demonstrations in major cities following prayers.
Since Wednesday’s verdict TLP has been holding sit-ins in cities across the country with supporters blocking major traffic thoroughfares, causing gridlock and school closures in key hubs like Lahore, Islamabad, and Karachi.
TLP, founded in 2015, blockaded the capital Islamabad for several weeks last year calling for stricter enforcement of Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws.
That protest forced the resignation of the federal law minister and paved the way for the group to poll more than 2.23 million votes in the July 25 general election, in what analysts called a “surprisingly” rapid rise.
The protests come after Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a forceful rebuke to the TLP in a nationally televised address in the ruling’s wake, saying the government would not tolerate violent protests.
The former cricketer left hours after the address for a state visit to China, where he will likely seek financial assistance from Beijing to shore up the country’s deteriorating finances.


Man dies in US from virus after attending ‘COVID party’

Updated 12 min 27 sec ago

Man dies in US from virus after attending ‘COVID party’

  • The party was hosted by a person infected with COVID-19, says doctor
  • Hospital nurse says the man thought the coronavirus crisis was a hoax

NEW YORK: A 30-year-old man from Texas died from the new coronavirus after attending a “COVID-19” party hosted by an infected person, a doctor has revealed, underlining the risk to younger people.
Jane Appleby, chief medical officer at the Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, said the man thought the virus was a hoax, despite it killing more than 135,000 people in the United States so far.
“Someone will be diagnosed with the disease, and they’ll have a party to invite their friends over to see if they can beat the disease,” Appleby said in a video broadcast by US media on Sunday.
“One of the things that was heart-wrenching that he said to his nurse was, ‘You know, I think I made a mistake.’
“He thought the disease was a hoax. He thought he was young and invincible and wouldn’t get affected by the disease.”
Appleby said young patients often do not realize how sick they are.
“They don’t look really sick. But when you check their oxygen levels and their lab tests, they’re really sicker than they appear,” she said, calling on people to take the risks seriously.
The Trump administration on Sunday again pressed for full school reopenings in the fall, even as resurgent coronavirus infections — many of them blamed on younger people — and a record spike in cases in Florida raise further questions about the country’s efforts to quell the disease.
The United States has by far the world’s highest caseload and number of deaths.