Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi on Thursday reiterated his promise to the nation that those who broke the law during countrywide protests against the Supreme Court’s acquittal of Asia Bibi will not go unpunished.
In a charged speech on the floor of the Senate, Afridi vowed to make an example out of those who resorted to violence during the three-day long protests, which broke out after the apex court last week set free Bibi – a Christian woman who had been on death row for eight years in a blasphemy case.
The protests, spearheaded by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), paralysed the country for three days before the government reached a deal with the demonstrators, ending the protests.
Lashing out at opponents who criticised the government for its deal with the rioters, Afridi said the state will never use force against its own citizens.
“There will be no bullets, no sticks used against fellow Pakistanis in ‘Naya Pakistan’. [The state] cannot even imagine use of force against its own citizens,” said the minister.
“[But we] will make an example out of those who broke the law. We will take action against those who challenged the writ of the state. I promise the nation, those who took the law into their own hands will not be forgiven,” he said.
Afridi said governments who failed to maintain peace were not respected. He added that people belonging to some political parties had been involved in harassing citizens and damaging public and private property during the protests.
The minister shared that the TLP disowned the rioters, when the government sat with the party and showed its leaders video clips of those who resorted to violence.
“It is every Pakistani’s right to file a review petition,” Afridi said, referring to one of the terms laid out on the agreement signed with the demonstrators under which, the government will initiate legal proceedings to put Asia Bibi on the Exit Control List and will not object to a review appeal against the verdict, which was filed earlier in the Supreme Court.
Criminal proceedings against the agitators were initiated by the government earlier this week as police booked hundreds of people from across the country for vandalising property and inciting violence during the protests.