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Govt deal with hardliners to end their protest over acquittal of Christian women

Asia Bibi, a 47-year-old mother of four, was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting Islam in a row with her neighbours.

The situation in Pakistan returned to normalcy Saturday as the massive countrywide protests led by hundreds of radical Islamist hardliners against the acquittal of a Christian woman in a blasphemy case came to a halt following a deal with the government.

Asia Bibi, a 47-year-old mother of four, was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting Islam in a row with her neighbours. She always maintained her innocence but has spent most of the past eight years in solitary confinement.

Extremists chiefly belonging to Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) and other factions took to streets against the verdict and blocked main roads in all major cities as well as several highways and motorways, seriously hampering the movements of goods, services and people.

"I am thankful to all Muslims who have played their part to ensure respect for Prophet Muhammad," TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi told his followers before calling off protests.

"You have made an example and lesson for our generations to come about what it means to respect the Holy Prophet," he said.

Earlier, footage shared on social media showed that they wreaked vengeance on common people and burnt cars, bike and buses, torched properties and attacked police.

The chaos that reigned in cities like Lahore finally came to halt after the government agreed to stop Asia from going abroad, promised not to stand against the review petition against her acquittal in the Supreme Court and withdraw of all the cases against hooligans and release those arrested.

Police announced on Twitter after the agreement that Motorways and National Highways are open for all types of traffic. However, they urged the public to refrain from unwanted travel keeping in view the "volatile and unpredictable" situation.

There are reports that Maulana Ashraf Jalali of Tehreek-i-Labail Ya Rasool Allah faction was still protesting but was not a big force to enforce big blockades.

So, schools have been opened in Punjab and elsewhere and mobile and internet services restored, police said.

The only saving grace for the government is that the TLP in the signed agreement "apologised if it had hurt the sentiments of someone or caused inconvenience" to them during the protests.

So far there is no proof that the protestors were also paid money to go back.

Last year, a video went viral showing an ISI army officer in uniform distributing money among the protestors after negotiating a deal with them the end the protests in Islamabad.

(With inputs from agencies.)



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