Government caught between a rock and a hard place with ongoing protests

Supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), a hard-line religious political party, gather on a blocked street during a protest following the Supreme Court’s decision to acquit Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi of blasphemy, in Karachi on Nov. 2, 2018. (AFP/File)
Updated 02 November 2018

Government caught between a rock and a hard place with ongoing protests

  • Seeks to resolve issue amicably, even as demands for death continue for Christian woman
  • Lawyers urge authorities to charge protest leaders with incitement of violence and treason

ISLAMABAD: Stressing on the fact that Pakistan’s government had very few legal and political options to deal with protestors seeking a reversal of the Supreme Court’s verdict acquitting a Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, in a blasphemy case, experts said on Friday that the best way forward would be to resolve the issue through dialogue.
Sharafat Ali, a Supreme Court senior advocate, told Arab News that the government is not a complainant in the blasphemy case and therefore it can do little to “legally meet any requirements of the protesters”.
Bibi, a 51-year-old woman and a mother of five, was accused of blasphemy in 2009 in Sheikhupura and was awarded the death sentence by the lower courts. She had been in prison ever since. The country’s top court on Wednesday acquitted Bibi of blasphemy charges, reasoning that the prosecution had categorically failed to prove its case.
Shortly after the verdict, activists of a far-right religious party, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) took to the streets in all major cities of the country, including Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore, and blocked the main arteries, thereby disrupting public life. They have also been accused of inciting followers through fiery speeches against members of the army and the judges who passed the verdict.
Ali said that the government should have charged the leaders of the protesting parties with “treason”, specifically the TLP’s wheelchair-bound leader, cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, and his associates, for the incitement against state institutions.
“If the government fails to register cases against some key clerics leading the protests under incitement and treason charges, this will further embolden the extremists,” he said.
Talking to media persons outside the Parliament House on Friday, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi said that the government was negotiating with the party leaders and “there will soon be a positive progress.”
He, however, categorically said that the government will not use force to disperse protesters. “We don’t want any bloodshed,” he said.
Tahir Malik, an academic and a political analyst, said the government is caught in a catch-22 situation as protesters have refused to back down from their demand under the verdict was reversed.
“Dialogue seems to be the only option to resolve the issue peacefully,” he told Arab News.
“If the government uses force against protesters, a considerable segment of the society can move against the authorities and further complicate the issue,” he said.
Malik said that there is a need to devise a long-term strategy to de-radicalize the society through the teachings of Islam. “Entire political leadership should join hands to ostracize extremists and ideology of extremism in the society,” he added.


Nepalese climbers bag mountaineering’s last great prize: winter ascent of Pakistan’s K2

Updated 32 min 9 sec ago

Nepalese climbers bag mountaineering’s last great prize: winter ascent of Pakistan’s K2

  • One of the ten Nepalese mountaineers performed the feat without using an oxygen cylinder
  • K2 earned the nickname of ‘savage mountain’ since a large number of climbers lost their lives while trying to scale it

ISLAMABAD: A group of Nepalese climbers made history on Saturday by summiting the world’s second tallest mountain, K2, in winter, according to its team leader who made the announcement on Facebook only minutes after making the accomplishment. 

“The Karakorum’s ‘Savage Mountain’ has been summited in the most dangerous season: WINTER,” Chhang Dawa Sherpa exclaimed in his social media post.

His announcement was also confirmed by an official of the Alpine Club of Pakistan which deals with mountaineering expeditions in the country.

At 8,611 meters, K2 was the only peak among the 14 “8000ers” located in the Karakorum and Himalayan mountain ranges that remained unconquered during winter. 

Along the icy glaciers of the Karakoram, mountaineers and locals speak about K2 summits with a hushed reverence, and folklore in the area is rife with mythical stories of the mountain “permitting” climbers to reach its top — considered the ultimate honor granted to a mortal by nature. 

When a climb doesn't go as planned, locals tell each other the mountain refused to be scaled. 

“The Nepalese climbers finally reached the summit of Mt. K2 … this afternoon at 17:00 local time,” Dawa wrote. “This is the first winter ascent of the 2nd highest mountain in the world and the ONLY eight-thousander (8000er) to be climbed in winter. This is a greatest achievement in the history of mountaineering, this is a good example of team work … ‘If a mountain lets you climb it, no one can stop you.’” 

One of the ten Nepalese climbers, Mingma G, also became the first mountaineer to summit the peak in winter without an oxygen cylinder.

K2 earned the nickname of “savage mountain” since a large number of climbers — 86 in all — lost their lives while trying to scale it. 

In 2008, 11 climbers from an international expedition died in what was considered as the single worst accident in the history of mountaineering. 

K2 straddles the Pakistan-China border. While it is about two-and-a-half football fields shorter than Everest (8,848 meters), it is widely considered to be the toughest and most dangerous mountain to climb. 

More than 300 climbers have scaled K2 in spring and summer. Italians Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli were the first to reach its summit in the summer of 1954.