Don’t clash with state, Pakistan’s PM Khan warns protesters

Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the nation on television. (File photo, courtesy PM's Office)
Updated 01 November 2018

Don’t clash with state, Pakistan’s PM Khan warns protesters

  • A small segment of society is inciting masses, PM Khan said
  • TLP supporters are protesting against the apex court verdict to free Christian woman

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a televised address to the nation on Wednesday, warned protesters not take the law into their own hands. “I appeal to these elements ... do not clash with the state.”
He said the apex court verdict that Christian woman Asia Bibi, who was in jail on blasphemy charges but won her appeal against the death sentence, was according to the constitution.
The prime minister added that a small segment of society is inciting the masses for their own political purposes.
“Let me make it clear to you ... the state will fulfil its duty and protect people’s lives and properties,” he said. “I appeal to you ... do not take the state to a level where it has no option but to initiate action.” 
Khan said that the language being used against the Supreme Court judges who announced the verdict and against  Army Chief General Qammar Javed Bajwa was unbearable.
“Saying that the judges of the Supreme Court are ‘Wajib ul Qatl’ (liable to be killed) and that the army chief is a ‘non-Muslim,’ and calling for a revolt against the chief justice and army chief ... This is unacceptable,” the PM said.
The central leader of the far-right Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan party (TLP), Afzal Qadri, issued a decree against the judges who released Asia.
Supporters of Khadim Hussain Rizvi, a hard-line cleric and chief of the TLP, are demonstrating against the verdict, holding sit-in protests in Karachi, Lahore, Multan and leading protest rallies in Islamabad and other cities. Clashes between the protesters and police have been reported.
The area known as Red Zone in Islamabad, where the Supreme Court, Parliament and other important building are located, has been sealed off to keep protesters away from the court.
Bibi was the first woman in the country who had been given the death sentence for blasphemy.
The three-member bench headed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Saqib Nisar reversed two lower-court verdicts against Bibi and said she would be set free if she is not wanted in relation to any other case.

US Senator Graham urges Trump to meet Pakistan PM Khan

Updated 13 min 14 sec ago

US Senator Graham urges Trump to meet Pakistan PM Khan

  • US and Pakistan should have “strategic engagement”, not transactional relationship
  • The American senator sees a “unique opportunity” to change diplomatic direction of US-Pakistan ties

ISLAMABAD:  US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on Sunday President Donald Trump should meet Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan as soon as possible to reset long-difficult US relations with Pakistan and push for a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan.

The comments, which add to growing signs of improved relations between Islamabad and Washington, come amid efforts to press on with talks between the Taliban and the United States aimed at an agreement to end 17 years of war in Afghanistan.

"I've seen things change here and all in a positive direction," Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who has generally been a staunch supporter of Trump, told a news conference in Islamabad.

He said a meeting with Khan, who has declared strong support for a peace agreement in Afghanistan, would leave Trump "far more enthusiastic about the region than he is today".

"With Prime Minister Khan we have a unique opportunity to change our relationship," he said. A previously transactional relationship, based on rewards for services rendered, should be replaced by "strategic engagement", including a free trade agreement, he said.

US relations with Pakistan have long been dogged by suspicions that elements in the Pakistani establishment were aiding the Taliban, a charge Islamabad strongly denies. However, relations have appeared to improve in recent months amid efforts to push the Taliban towards a peace deal.

Trump, who has in the past argued for the United States to withdraw from Afghanistan, has made it clear he wants to see a peace accord reached rapidly although the Taliban have so far refused to talk directly with the Afghan government.

Graham's trip to Pakistan coincided with a visit by Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, and top military commanders including General Joseph Votel, commander of US Central Command.

Khalilzad left Islamabad without announcing a new date for talks with Taliban representatives, who have refused further meetings until the US side agrees to discuss a timetable for withdrawing its forces.

The uncertainty has been increased by reports that Trump is prepared to order more than 5,000 US troops out of Afghanistan, a move that would represent a sharp change in course from Washington's previous policy of stepping up military action against the Taliban.

With Afghan forces suffering thousands of casualties a year and struggling to hold back the Taliban insurgency, the reports have caused alarm in Kabul, prompting many close to the government to question the US commitment to Afghanistan.

Asked whether there had been confusion over the US message, Graham, who has called for a Senate hearing on Trump's plans to withdraw US troops from Syria and Afghanistan, said "without a doubt" but added that he did not believe Washington would stand by and allow a Taliban victory.

"The world's not going to let the Taliban take Afghanistan over by force of arms. That would be unconscionable," he told Reuters. "Any president who let that happen would go down in history very poorly."