Religious groups incensed by acquittal of a Christian woman Asia Bibi for blasphemy vow no let up to protests after Prime Minister Imran Khan promised to confront them.
Pakistan's ultra-conservative party blocked roads in major cities for a third day on Friday in protest against the acquittal of a Christian woman on death row for blasphemy allegations.
Tehreek-i-Labaik (or TLP) said talks with the government have failed, and called upon its followers to get ready for a show down.
"Talks have completely failed, Federal and provincial representatives and an Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) General Faiz took part in talks," Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the leader of TLP said in a tweet early on Friday morning.
"Government has warned,'we will finish you off'," Rizvi said in his tweet.
Knots of protesters from TLP blocked roughly 10 roads in the southern city of Karachi and others in eastern Lahore, Geo TV and other channels said. Private schools in both cites were shut, as well as in the capital.
According to Dawn newspaper, police detained several protesters for hooliganism and blocking roads.
TRT World's Ali Mustafa is following the developments from Islamabad.
Heart of the protests
Groups of about 200 protesters from TLP sat under large tents, listening to speeches on two blocked roads in Karachi.
In one speech, a TLP speaker exhorted supporters to light new fires if the police managed to douse burning tyres and other objects they had already set ablaze.
The demonstrators were protesting the court's decision on Wednesday to free Asia Bibi, a mother of four, who had been living on death row since 2010, as the first woman sentenced to death by hanging under Pakistan's tough blasphemy laws.
Even if the entire world puts weight behind Asia, no compromise should have been made on confessed blasphemy. Who has swapped self-esteem and earnest faith for secularised decision and why?— Khadim Hussain Rizvi (@KhadimRizviReal) November 1, 2018
Bibi was accused of making derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbours objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim.
But a three-judge panel set up to hear the appeal, headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, ruled the evidence was insufficient.
Bibi's brother expressed concern and fear for her safety, saying she has "no other option" but to leave the country, Dawn reported. Bibi is being held at an undisclosed location due to security reasons, it said.
Division in Pakistan
The case has divided Pakistan, where two politicians who sought to help Bibi were assassinated, and outraged Christians worldwide, with Pope Francis saying he personally prayed for Bibi.
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."
Judges targeted in speeches
Khan's broadcast followed comments by a senior leader of TLP, calling for Chief Justice Nisar and the other two judges to be killed.
"They all three deserve to be killed," TLP co-founder Muhammad Afzal Qadri told a protest in Lahore. "Either their security, their driver, or their cook should kill them."
He also called for the ouster of Khan's new government and urged army officers to rise up against powerful military chief General Qamar Jawed Bajwa.
Pakistan army said on Friday it wants amicable and peaceful resolution of the current situation, Radio Pakistan reported.
Director General ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor made it clear that Pakistan army will play its constitutional role if requested by the government, it said.
Hafiz Saeed, an influential religious leader whom the US accuses of being the mastermind of attacks in Mumbai in 2008 that killed 166, has called for protests after Friday afternoon prayers.
Another hardline group, the Millie Yakjehti Council, also held a meeting on Thursday to discuss Bibi's case and may launch protests.
The whereabouts of Bibi and her family are unclear, and speculation is growing that she will leave Pakistan with her family, who have been in hiding for much of the past eight years.