Thousands of supporters of Mumtaz Qadri, who was hanged for killing liberal Punjab province governor Salman Taseer, held the Pakistani capital’s high-security red zone under siege on Monday and demanded that the Islamist assassin be declared a “martyr”.
About 25,000 protesters on Sunday, a month after Qadri was hanged for shooting Taseer, prayed for him in Rawalpindi, and then marched towards Islamabad’s Red Zone, breaking barriers that had been erected.
Out of the 25,000, about 3,000 supporters of Qadri continued their sit in outside the Parliament House and other key government installations for a second day on Monday.
Police and Rangers threw tear gas shells on the protesters on Sunday in a bid to contain them. At least 42 security officials and 16 citizens were injured in the clashes which followed, Geo News reported.
Police has detained several people for vandalising public property.
Meanwhile, mobile phone services in the capital have been blocked. The government has asked citizens to stay away from the area.
Protest leaders were making speeches on a makeshift stage.
The government on Sunday called in the army to control the law and order situation in the capital after some protesters resorted to violence and allegedly damaged public property.
The media bore the brunt of protesters’ fury as they attacked media persons, injuring some of them and damaging their equipment. The protesters claimed that the media was not covering the event in an objective manner.
The protesters are demanding that the government scrap any plans to amend the blasphemy laws, and execute all those convicted of blasphemy, including Asia Bibi, a female Christian blasphemy convict, the Express News reported.
They have called on the government to declare Qadri a “martyr” and announce a public holiday in his name.
Qadri was hanged last month after which tens of thousands of his Islamist supporters chanting provocative slogans attended his funeral.
Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Pakistan, with even unproven allegations often triggering mob violence.
The controversial law was introduced by former military dictator Zia-ul Haq in 1980s and so far hundreds of people have been charged under it.
Image: Islamist activists hold pictures of Mumtaz Qadri as they gather at Rawalpindi’s Liaqat Bagh before marching towards Islamabad. Photograph: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters