LAHORE -  Religious activists have been occupying The Mall for the past 36 hours, demanding the government punish Asia Bibi - a Christian woman on death row over blasphemy.

Their protest sit-in, in front of the Punjab Assembly, followed the SC’s adjournment on her appeal after one of the judges stepped down.

In 2010, a court sentenced to hanging the Christian woman over blasphemy during an argument with a Muslim woman. All of her appeals have been rejected, and if the Supreme Court upholds the conviction, her only recourse will be a direct appeal to the President for clemency.

If hanged, Asia Bibi would be the first person in Pakistan to be executed for blasphemy. Security experts have warned of possible violence if the conviction is overturned.

Rights groups frequently complain that the blasphemy law is often misused to carry out personal vendettas.

On Wednesday, demonstrators, mostly seminary students, rallied from Nasir Bagh to Charing Cross where they staged the sit-in. They were also chanting full throat slogans in favour of Mumtaz Qadri - the police guard hanged to death for murdering Punjab governor Salman Taseer in October, 2011. Big banners were displayed around the venue.

Hundreds of policemen are deployed at a reasonable distance from the protesters. “The police will use force following the order by high-ups,” an officer said on anonymity.

According to sources, more reinforcement will be sent to the site today as more activists are expected to take to streets after Friday prayers.

Many protesters believe the government is unwilling to execute the sentence because of international pressure. “We will not end the sit-in. We are also planning such a (protest) campaign in other cities of the province,” Ubaidullah, a 20-year-old protester, said.

The sit-in, which yesterday entered second day, multiplied motorists’ miseries as roadblocks triggered traffic mess, particularly during peak hours. The police blocked several arteries while the vehicular traffic was diverted to alternative routes. This police action further aggravated the situation in the congested areas where wardens took hours to clear the mess.

The Mall has become the most suitable place for protesters from all over the province. Such demonstrations are causing huge losses to businesses, local traders say. The Mall roadblock affects adversely the areas of Civil Lines, Garhi Shahu, Race Course, Qila Gujjar Singh, Lower Mall, Samanabad, Lytton Road, and Lower Mall, and Mozang traffic burden is multiplied on Ferozepur Road, Jail Road, Canal Road, and Davis Road.