Islamabad: JuD chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed
on Wednesday made his first public appearance in the Pakistani
capital in over two years at a meeting of leaders of key
religious parties and hardliners opposed to changes in the
country`s controversial blasphemy law.
Saeed, blamed by India for masterminding the 2008
Mumbai attacks, has addressed gatherings and rallies across
Punjab since he was released from house arrest last year but
had not visited Islamabad in the recent past.
Addressing the gathering, Saeed stressed the need for
a well-organised media campaign in favour of the blasphemy
Former premier and senior PML-Q leader Chaudhry
Shujaat Hussain also attended the meeting, which called for a
country-wide strike on December 31 to oppose moves for changes
in the blasphemy law.
A death sentence given by a lower court in Punjab to a
Christian woman, Asia Bibi, convicted of insulting Prophet
Mohammed has triggered a debate on the need to repeal or amend
the blasphemy law introduced by late military ruler Zia-ul-Haq
in the 1980s.
The law carries a death penalty for anyone convicted
of using derogatory language against Islam and the Prophet.
Minority communities and rights groups have said that
the law has been misused to falsely implicate people in
An official report on Asia Bibi`s case submitted to
President Asif Ali Zardari said she had been framed in the
Zardari has asked Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz
Bhatti to recommend reformed procedures to prevent the misuse
of the blasphemy law for personal and political reasons.
During today`s meeting, the leaders of the main
religious parties announced they would resist any move to
amend the blasphemy law.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who
presided over the meeting, called for a strike across the
country on December 31 to oppose moves to change the law.
Rehman said rallies will be organised in major cities
on December 24 and a major rally will be held in the port city
of Karachi on January 9.
The future strategy of the religious parties will be
announced at the Karachi rally.
He also asked the government to clarify its position
on the issue.
The leaders said they would raise the issue in
parliament and oppose any move by the government to table
amendments in the law.
Hafiz Saeed said he would support the movement by the
Saeed was placed under house arrest in the wake of the
Mumbai attacks after the UN Security Council declared the JuD
a front for the Lashker-e-Taiba.
He was freed within six months on the orders of the
Lahore High Court.
Since then, he has addressed several major gatherings
in Punjab province.