Nationwide protests continued for a second consecutive day on Thursday, November 1, following the Supreme Court acquittal of a Christian woman previously sentenced to death on blasphemy charges. Protests and civil disobedience beginning on Wednesday, October 31, has resulted in clashes with security forces, roadblocks, large demonstrations, and rail and flight disruptions across the country. As of the evening hours (local time) of November 1, protests and related disruptions are ongoing in Karachi (Sindh province), Lahore (Punjab province), Islamabad (Capital Territory), Peshawar (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), and other cities.
On November 1, Islamabad police cleared roadblocks and dispersed protesters at Tramri Chowk, Faizabad Interchange, and Aabpara Chowk, wounding three protesters. Security personnel reportedly used tear gas, rubber bullets, and live munitions to clear the areas. As of Thursday evening, the M-1 Motorway from Peshawar to Islamabad and the M-2 Motorway from Islamabad to Kamalabad (Punjab province) were both reopened. The M-3 and M-4 motorways in Punjab province from Faisalabad to Pindi Bhattian and Gojra, respectively, remain closed.
Some flight delays for international and domestic flights persisted at Lahore's Allama Iqbal International Airport (LHE) on Thursday due to protests and roadblocks. Access roads to Islamabad International Airport (ISB) and Bacha Khan International Airport (PEW) in Peshawar were clear of protesters, although heavy traffic continued to be reported. Furthermore, train services from Peshawar to Karachi were reportedly delayed by more than 14 hours and other trains between Lahore and Rawalpindi (Punjab province) were diverted due to protests. Similar transportation disruptions are to be expected in the coming days.
The government also indicated that mobile phone services will remain suspended in Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, and Gujranwala (Punjab province) from 08:00 to approximately 17:00 on November 2.
Continued protests, including a nationwide strike, are planned for Friday, November 2. Additionally, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) political alliance announced a "million man march" in Karachi on Thursday, November 8. Despite concerns of deadly protests following the verdict, there have been no fatalities during demonstrations thus far.
The Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) publicly warned the government and judiciary against overturning Bibi's death sentence, threatening to stage massive protests should the sentence not be upheld.
The TLP was founded in 2015 and has increasingly been gaining popular support, as demonstrated by the results of the July 2018 general elections. Protests held by the TLP in 2017 demanding the stricter enforcement of blasphemy laws led to a blockade on Islamabad, which lasted for three weeks and resulted in the resignation of the federal law minister.
Individuals in Pakistan are advised to closely monitor developments, prepare for associated transportation disruptions (including flight delays and cancelations), minimize nonessential movements, be prepared to shelter in place, avoid all demonstrations due to the risk of violence, and refrain from discussing sensitive religious and political topics in public.
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