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Pakistan issues 'last warning' to Islamists blocking entrance to capital | Reuters

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan’s government on Friday issued a final warning to members of a hard-line Islamist party who have blocked a main road into the capital since last week, raising fears of a violent clash as they refuse to budge. Members of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan, an Islamist political party, shout slogans as they raise their hands during a sit-in in Rawalpindi, Pakistan November 13, 2017. Picture taken November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal MahmoodHundreds of supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan party have been blocked the road to Islamabad for nearly 10 days, demanding that the minister of law be sacked for what they term blasphemy. “You all are being given a last warning,” the Islamabad deputy commissioner said in the order. A court had already ordered the party to end the protest, the order added. “After this final announcement, you all are being warned to end the illegal sit in immediately.” Tehreek-e-Labaik blames the minister, Zahid Hamid, for changes to an electoral oath that it says amounts to blasphemy. The government puts the issue down to a clerical error. Pakistan’s blasphemy law has become a lightning rod for Islamists, especially since 2011 when the liberal governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was murdered by a bodyguard for questioning the law that mandates the death penalty for insulting Islam or the Prophet Mohammad. Khadim Hussain Rizvi, leader of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan an Islamist political party, leads members in shouting slogans during a sit-in in Rawalpindi, Pakistan November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal MahmoodA spokesman for the Labaik party, Ejaz Ashrafi, refused to comply with the order. “We’re not moving,” he told Reuters by phone form the sit-in. Men walk past a blocked highway as members of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan, an Islamist political party hold a sit-in in Rawalpindi, Pakistan November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal MahmoodA government official, Khalid Abbasi, said the protesters had set up pickets along the route they are occupying manned by party members carrying iron rods and sticks. Since they got the warning, he said, hundreds of more party workers have joined the sit-in. Fearing violence, the government has blocked several roads with shipping containers to corral the protesters, but that has caused hours-long traffic jams in and around the capital. In 2007, a confrontation between authorities and supporters of radical preachers at an Islamabad mosque led to the death of more than 100 people. “All resources can be used to break this sit-in,” the deputy commissioner’s warning said.

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Published Date: Nov 17, 2017 18:35 PM | Updated Date: Nov 17, 2017 18:35 PM