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.


China calls expulsion of diplomats from US a ‘mistake’

Updated 12 min 57 sec ago

China calls expulsion of diplomats from US a ‘mistake’

  • It comes days after they announced a truce in the form of a mini-deal to reduce some tariffs in a bruising trade war which has weighed on both sides
  • The incident appeared to be the first time in more than 30 years that the US has expelled Chinese diplomats on suspicion of espionage

BEIJING: China on Monday called the expulsion of diplomats from the US a “mistake,” following reports that Washington quietly expelled two embassy officials in September after they drove onto a sensitive military base in Virginia.
The incident is the latest spat between the world’s two biggest economies and comes days after they announced a truce in the form of a mini-deal to reduce some tariffs in a bruising trade war which has weighed on both sides.
Commenting on The New York Times report, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang called the accusations “completely contrary to the facts” and said they “strongly urge the United States to correct its mistake.”
Geng said Beijing had lodged “solemn representations and protests to the US” and called for Washington to “protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese diplomats.”
The incident appeared to be the first time in more than 30 years that the US has expelled Chinese diplomats on suspicion of espionage, the newspaper said Sunday, citing people familiar with the episode.
At least one of the diplomats was believed to be an intelligence officer operating under cover, the Times said.