Christians in Pakistan have been warned to be braced for reprisals following the acquittal of Asia Bibi on blasphemy charges.
Protests are continuing across the nation the day after the Supreme Court threw out the charges of blasphemy against Asia.
Protests by the extremist Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) Party continue, paralysing daily life in several cities of the country.
Pakistan media report that many roads are empty and routes blocked in major cities, along with some motorways.
Yesterday, the TLP called for Muslim generals to rise up against their own army and for protestors to take to the streets to defy their government, even if it cost their lives. Prime Minister Imran Khan made a broadcast to the nation, calling for order.
Today, an emergency ban continues on public gatherings of more than four people in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan. In those areas, there has also been a ban on pillion riding to prevent extremist attacks by motorcycle.
Hospitals have been placed on high-alert and private schools have been closed in several cities.
A second Islamist group, Milli Yekjehti Council (MYC), is meeting today to consider calling for more protests. And further demonstrations have been called after Friday prayers tomorrow.
Release International is calling for prayer for Christians in Pakistan. They are especially vulnerable in small villages and colonies in Punjab.
Christians make up, at most, 3 per cent of the population. Extremist attacks, such as suicide bombings and church burnings have been spreading in recent years, often linked to accusations of blasphemy.
Release is also calling for prayer for Asia Bibi and those connected with her case. Her lawyer, Saif-ul-Mulook, said Asia and her family would have to leave the country for their own protection.
The lawyer said he was also now a sitting target for extremists. But he told the news agency AFP: ‘I think it’s better to die as a brave and strong man than to die as a mouse and fearful person.’
Release asks for prayer for Saif, too, and that his courageous stand for truth, justice and humanity would be an inspiration to leaders across Pakistan, of every faith.