Hardliners rally against Pope across Pakistan`s Punjab

Hardline religious parties organised rallies across Punjab province to protest Pope Benedict`s call for the repeal of Pak`s controversial blasphemy law.

Lahore: Hardline religious parties and
extremist groups, including the Jamaat-ud-Dawah, organised
rallies across Punjab province today to protest Pope
Benedict`s call for the repeal of Pakistan`s controversial
blasphemy law.

The rallies were organised under the banner of the
Tehrik Tahaffuz-e-Namoos-e-Risalat, an alliance of Islamist
groups opposed to any move to repeal or amend the blasphemy

Members of the JuD, Sunni Tehrik, Jamaat-e-Islami,
Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl joined
the protests.

Speaking outside the JuD`s headquarters at Chauburji
in Lahore, its leader Hafiz Saifullah Mansoor criticised the
Pope for supporting Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to
death last year for allegedly insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

Mansoor alleged that when an American priest had
announced plans to desecrate the Quran, the Pope and the
Western world did nothing to stop him.

Abdur Rehman Makki, another senior JuD leader, said
the Pope`s statement amounted to interference in Pakistan`s
internal affairs.

He warned the government not to yield to "foreign
pressure" and said the rulers would be held responsible if
Asia Bibi is allowed to flee the country.

The protestors carried banners and placards inscribed
with slogans against the Pope and in favour of the blasphemy

They also shouted slogans against the Pope, the US and

Senior Jamaat-e-Islamai leader Sirajul Haq said the
Pope`s demand had hurt the feelings of the Muslim world.

He warned Pakistan`s rulers that the people would
organise a march to Islamabad if any move is made to amend the
provisions of the blasphemy law.

Amir Ameerul Azeem, another Jamaat-e-Islami leader,
criticised the government for showing "cowardice" in handling
the case of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman who was given a
long prison term in America following her conviction on terror

Azeem claimed Pakistan`s rulers had not spoken out for
Siddiqui but were sympathising with a woman convicted for

He asked the government to lodge a protest against the
Pope`s statement and said a bill seeking amendments to the
blasphemy law should be withdrawn from parliament.

He also said a "grand rally" would be organised in
Lahore on January 30 to "compel the rulers not to play with
the sentiments of Muslims".

Salmaan Taseer, a senior leader of the Pakistan
People`s Party and the Governor of Punjab, was recently gunned
down by a police guard who said he was angered by the
politician`s criticism of the blasphemy law.


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