Police have detained hundreds of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party supporters across Pakistan on Friday, November 23, and Saturday, November 24, after the TLP vowed to hold protests in Islamabad on Sunday following the recent acquittal of a Christian woman on blasphemy charges. Most of the detained protesters were arrested in Punjab province. TLP leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi and party founder Mohammed Afzal Qadri have both been detained in the crackdown, which began Friday night (local time). At least five people were wounded in clashes between TLP supporters and police in Lahore on Friday evening after Rizvi's arrest; police have also dispersed TLP supporters in Karachi, some of whom set fires during a preceding demonstration.
Similar protests are possible in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, and other Pakistani cities over the coming hours and days. If protests do take place, an increased security presence, transportation disruptions, clashes with security forces, and vandalism are likely.
Mass demonstrations broke out on October 31 after the Supreme Court acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who previously spent eight years on death row on blasphemy charges. The demonstrations resulted in clashes with security forces, roadblocks, and rail and flight disruptions across the country. TLP leaders, who were instrumental in provoking the unrest, agreed to end mass protests on November 3, after an agreement was reached with the government.
Individuals in Pakistan are advised to closely monitor developments, avoid all demonstrations due to the risk of violence, and refrain from discussing sensitive religious and political topics in public.
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