LAHORE: The Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-i-Azam will quit the National Assembly if it amends the blasphemy laws, said party leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi at a Tehrik-i-Namoos-i-Risalat rally here on Sunday.
“We curse the assembly that would dare to amend the anti-blasphemy laws,” Elahi said. “Our party would be the first to quit such an assembly.”
The former chief minister added that he and his party colleagues were deeply committed to the cause. “Our children and our worldly belongings are of no consequence in the defence of Namoos-i-Risalat,” he said.
Elahi was one of several political leaders from non-religious parties to attend the Tehrik-i-Namoos-i-Risalat rally. Analysts say that these politicians are trying to gain religious sympathies and to cash in on anti-government feeling following the assassination of Governor Salmaan Taseer.
Apart from pressing their own credentials in protecting the sanctity of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), the speakers railed against Raymond Davis, the American consulate employee currently in police custody for the killing of two Pakistanis. They told the government that he must be treated “according to the law” and not be handed over to the United States.
“The American gunned down two innocents but the government is trying to exonerate him,” said Maulana Fazlur Rehman, president of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F (JUI-F). “This matter must be left to the courts to decide. If there is an executive intervention to stop the courts from exercising their jurisdiction, no one will respect the courts.”
He said his party would not let “American agents” continue their rule in Pakistan. He said that there would be another rally in Peshawar on the same issue on February 20.
Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-S chief Maulana Samiul Haq, who was introduced before his speech as a backer of the Taliban, told the rally that their primary demand of the government should not be that it pledge to leave the blasphemy laws alone, but that it pledge to remove all Americans and their supporters from the country. He urged the protesters to continue their “independence movement”, otherwise the killing of Pakistanis in drone attacks and firing incidents by foreigners would continue.
Syed Munawar Hasan, ameer of Jamaat-i-Islami, said that the law should “take its natural course” and penalise the accused American. He said some Americans had previously been arrested in the city with weapons but were let off.
Ijazul Haq, leader of the PML-Zia, said the blasphemy laws were not made by a dictator, his father Gen Ziaul Haq, but were “the laws of Allah” and as such could not be amended. He said the religious parties should give the government a deadline by which it would pledge not to amend the laws in any way, otherwise they should plan a long march towards Islamabad.
JUI-F leader Hafiz Hussain Ahmed referred to Davis as an employee of Blackwater, the American mercenaries. “During interrogation he confessed that he was on a special mission and was operating on instructions. The government should make public his mission and instructions and why he riddled our brothers with bullets.”
He claimed that the US government was offering visas in return for Davis’ release. He said if the government bowed to American demands and let him off, they would besiege the US embassy and the Presidency in Islamabad.
Also invited to the rally were Muhammad Waseem and Imran, brothers of Faheem and Faizan Haider, the two men that Davis killed. Repeated announcements were made from the stage to welcome them and express solidarity with them.
“The blood of the martyrs Faheem and Faizan will not go to waste. We will contest their case before the court. The government must stop its conspiracy to portray this as a case of self-defence, otherwise neither the city government nor the provincial government will be able to continue,” said an organiser in an announcement from the stage.
PML-Nawaz MNA Khawaja Saad Rafiq, representing his party chief, said the PML-N would not accept any foreign pressure for the release of Davis. He said “the American diplomat” had killed two people and one of his colleagues had crushed another under his vehicle, and they would be dealt with according to the law. He said US Ambassador Cameron Munter had telephoned Nawaz Sharif to ask for help to secure Davis’ release, but Sharif had refused. He also led the crowd in shouting the slogan: “Amrika ka jo yaar hay, ghaddar hay ghaddar hay” [Whoever is America’s friend is a traitor].
Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan general secretary Qari Zawar Bahadur said that the government should close the US embassy in Islamabad in protest at the incident. He said all “Blackwater operatives” must be forced out of Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2011.