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40,000 Protest in Lahore against Any Amendment to Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law

Some 40,000 people joined Pakistan’s main opposition religious party, Jamiat-e-Islami, along with seven other parties including, Pakistan Muslim League (Q) and the banned Jamat-ud-dawa, to participate in a rally of Tehreek Namoos-e-Risalat [sanctity of the Holy Prophet] on Mall Road Lahore on Sunday, January 30, 2011, against any amendments to the blasphemy law in Pakistan.

Supporters of a religious party chant slogans during a rally against Pope Benedict XVI’s recent statements about Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, in Lahore

The protesters demanded that the government reject western influence and criticized Pope Benedict XVI for joining the west in what they claim is “propaganda against the Muslim state.”

The Pope had led international calls to show mercy towards Asia Bibi, the 45-year-old Christian woman and mother-of-five, who denies insulting the Prophet Muhammad during an argument in a Punjab province village in June 2009.

Religious parties want Pakistan to reject “western interference” in the country which, according to them, are exerting pressure to change the law.

The leaders threatened to stage a “long march” if any changes were made to the blasphemy laws.

Jamiat-e-Islami leader, Syed Munawar Hussain, warned if any amendment are made to the blasphemy law, neither parliament will remain, nor assemblies will exist. He said Pakistan cannot be prevented from revolutionary waves created in the Muslim world.

He said that struggle to defend blasphemy law will continue and that the masses will protect this law. He demanded that the Government must expel the representatives of the Vatican in Pakistan, as they have no right to dictate the government.

He condemned the killings of Pakistani committed by an American and said this depicts the cowardly behavior of our leaders that they have started killing our innocent people in our streets. He said circumstances for revolution in Pakistan are apt, Pakistan cannot be ruled out from the upshots of waves of unrest currently being observed in Muslim Ummah [Community of the Believers.]

Addressing the rally, JUI-F chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, urged the government to clarify its position on the issue of Namoos-e-Risalat, an act that states that anyone who insults Mohammed must be sentenced to death by hanging, without any delay.

He termed the Pakistan government as “an American agent” and warned it of Tunisia and Egypt like revolts in the country.

Protestors chant slogans against any changes in the blasphemy law in Pakistan

He cautioned the “extremist forces” of the West that if they did not stop their war against Islam, they would have to face its consequences. He advised the newly appointed Punjab governor to visit Mumtaz Qadri [the bodyguard charged with killing the previous governor, Salmaan Taseer, in jail to show solidarity with the Muslims of Pakistan. He announced that there would be a public gathering in Peshawar on February 20, 2010.

Jamaatud Dawa leader, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, said he would like to ask the European Parliament and Pope Benedict for their reasons for abolishing the blasphemy laws. He said that laws are made to maintain law and order in society. He asked how the abolition the Namoos-e-Risalat act (again what is this act?) would help maintain law and order in Pakistan.

He called for making an international law for protecting the sanctity of all prophets of God and he asked the government to expel the ambassadors from Pakistan of those countries which were involved in blasphemy acts.

Hafiz Saeed went on to say that he believed that Afghanistan, Kashmir and Palestine would be freed soon from the clutches of oppressed forces.

PML-Q leader, Ch. Pervaiz Ellahi, and PML-N leader, Khawaja Saad Rafique, also addressed the rally and they said that they cursed the assembly that dared to amend the blashphemy law in Pakistan.

The protesters were holding banners inscribed with writings in favor of their demands. They chanted slogans, such as, “We are ready to sacrifice our lives for the honor of the holy Prophet” and “Changes in the blasphemy law are not accepted” during the rally.

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