ISLAMABAD: The government reached out to the opposition as protesters blocked roads in the country’s major cities for a second day on Thursday, opposing a Supreme Court verdict to acquit a Christian woman on death row for blasphemy allegations.
A delegation led by Minister for Defence Pervez Khattak met Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif and discussed with him the overall situation.
The minister told the opposition leader that the government had no plan to use force against the protesters.
“We have agreed that we will resolve this issue together and force will not be used,” Khattak told reporters after the meeting.
Khattak said Prime Minister Imran Khan had spoken the truth and informed people about the reality. “The prime minister has promised to be honest with the people.”
PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb issued a statement over the meeting, stating the government’s delegation had informed the opposition leader about the security situation in the country.
Shehbaz told the government delegation that the honour of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was the foundation of their faith. The PML-N president added that the supremacy of the Constitution was the country’s base and institutions should not be humiliated.
He advised the government to act in a mature manner and use a political strategy to defuse the situation.
“We will not favour the use of force in any case,” Shehbaz was quoted as saying. “The future of the country belongs to our children and we will not let it fall prey to politics.”
The PML-N president also appointed former National Assembly speaker Ayaz Sadiq as the focal person to keep him posted on the current situation.
Meanwhile the government delegation also met with Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal-Bhutto Zardari and apprised him of the government strategy to defuse the tension.
In a televised national broadcast late on Wednesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan warned the protesters the government would act against any prolonged blockade.
“We will not allow any damages. We will not allow traffic to be blocked,” Khan said. “I appeal to you, do not push the state to the extent that it is forced to take action.”
It seems that the government has reviewed its strategy and instead of adopting an aggressive approach, it has decided to seek opposition’s cooperation to handle the situation. In the same vein, it started talks with the protesting leaders.
Meanwhile, protesters blocked roughly 10 key roads in Karachi and others in Lahore, media reported. Private schools in both the cites were shut, as well as in the federal capital.
The whereabouts of Aasia Bibi and her family are unclear, and speculation is growing that she will leave the courntry with her family, who have been in hiding for much of the past eight years.
With input from agencies.