Blasphemy laws: Strike brings country to a standstill

Published: December 31, 2010

File photo showing activists chanting slogans against Asia Bibi, a Christian mother sentenced to death, during a protest in Lahore on December 3, 2010. PHOTO: RIAZ AHMED

ISLAMABAD: 

Violence flared Friday as police and protesters clashed during a mass protest strike that closed businesses across Pakistan over a bid to end the death penalty for blasphemy.

Police said protesters near the home of President Asif Ali Zardari in the financial hub of Karachi pelted stones as they shouted slogans including “We’ll sacrifice our lives — we’ll save the sanctity of the Prophet”.

Teargas shells were fired to disperse them, while normally busy town centres turned quiet across the country, AFP reporters said, following a move to amend a law which permits death sentences for those found to have blasphemed.

Public transport in Karachi is unavailable, while petrol pumps and business centres have also been shut down.

The strike is also being observed in Lahore where PML-N, PML-Q, Tehreek-i-Insaf and other religious and trade organisations have announced their support for the cause. More than 2,500 activists from different religious parties held three protest rallies in Multan city in central Punjab province, where a shutter-down strike was observed and markets and bazaars remained closed, an AFP reporter said.

A complete shutter down strike is also being observed in Peshawar and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Balochistan has also joined the call for protest as shops and business centres remain closed in Quetta and other cities.

Updated from print edition (below)

Blasphemy laws: Clerics refuse to withdraw call for nationwide strike

The government’s fresh endeavours on Thursday to appease religious groups failed to make any headway as angry clerics remained defiant and refused to withdraw a strike call for Friday to protest against reported plans of repealing or amending blasphemy laws.

Leaders from religious groups refused to call back their strike despite several denials by the government.

Religious groups representing both Deobandi and Barelvi schools of thought said they would not withdraw the call backed by trade unions and transporters from across the country.

Their leaders said they would not accept any clarification by anybody less than either the president or the prime minister after several top officials denied plans of touching Zia-era’s controversial act.

Blasphemy laws are at the centre stage of the country’s beleaguered politics since President Asif Ali Zardari announced a pardon for a Christian woman whom a local court in a central Punjab district sentenced to death for allegedly insulting Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

The government on Wednesday told the National Assembly it would never repeal or amend a law which was an integral ‘part of Muslims’ faith’.

On Thursday as well, at least two federal ministers and one provincial minister came up with a clarification that the law would neither be repealed nor amended.

State Information Minister Sumsam Ali Bukhari stated categorically there was no proposal to amend the anti-blasphemy act as the Namoos-e-Risalat was a sensitive matter not only for the religious-political parties but for all Muslims.

“Neither the Pakistan Peoples Party nor the government has discussed the issue, to bring any amendment in the blasphemy law,” he told a news conference on the eve of what could be a shutter-down and wheel-jam strike across the country.

Leaders from Wafaqul Madaris Al Arabia urged ‘all faithful Muslims to make the strike a success to teach a lesson to the infidel powers’, a reference to the government.

Trade unions and associations for transporters were also firm on their positions to back the strike, indicating that it might be a successful venture.

Vice-chairman of All Pakistan Traders Association Ajmal Baloch told The Express Tribune that traders across the country will not open shops to support the cause of Namoos-e-Risalat.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2010.

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Reader Comments (27)

  • Akhlaque
    Dec 31, 2010 - 11:36AM

    Yes! we are ready to sacrifice our lives for the Holy prophet but are not ready to live according to his example i.e lead an honest, truthful and righteous lifeRecommend

  • Tariq Khan
    Dec 31, 2010 - 11:57AM

    “Leaders from Wafaqul Madaris Al Arabia urged ‘all faithful Muslims to make the strike a success to teach a lesson to the infidel powers’, a reference to the government….”

    I am sure the powers that be in Western Capitals are quivering in their boots by the exemplary success of today’s strike which is pointless as the Govt. has already backtracked on the blasphemy issue.

    It is amazing how many people (clergymen included) jump to extoll the benefits of the six day work week in this country yet spend more than half of the working week in pointless strikes and poisoning economic activity. Recommend

  • Dec 31, 2010 - 4:01PM

    We love our nation and our Prophet S.A.W and we won’t tolerate any attacks against dignity of Our Prophet S.A.WRecommend

  • Angelos
    Dec 31, 2010 - 4:32PM

    Good to hear about that. People should stand for any change in Blasphmey law apart from vagueness of 295C and preventing its abuse for personal gains. Moreover, people should implement teachings of Prophet PBUH in their lives. It shouldnt be like coming out for protests but doing yourself nothing.Recommend

  • MuslimBoy
    Dec 31, 2010 - 4:37PM

    My mullah brothers are very intelligent. Thats why they all are Professors and Drs in PHD.
    They were taught well
    now let chow down on some halwa. Nom nom nom.Recommend

  • MAD
    Dec 31, 2010 - 4:47PM

    Disappoint that Tehreek-e-insaaf chose to support this madness. But in comparision to other they still have my vote.Recommend

  • Remy
    Dec 31, 2010 - 4:55PM

    It is absolutely understandable that a great Muslim nation like Pakistan protects the memory of the Prophet of Islam. And it is the greatest honour of a people to be firm in faith. Yet, persecuting religious minorities is very harmful to Islam and the memory of its pious and wise prophet.
    He who showed compassion and munificence might have not agreed with such rigid laws. The Pakistani people is the only one able to change the legislation as no foreign power can do so, and doesn’t intend to do so. The calls of the international community, I am thinking of the call of Pope Benedict XVI are calls for wisedom, not hatred.
    It is right that Pakistani Muslims don’t tolerate attacks on the dignity of their Prophet. Please, dear friends, do not expect non-Muslims to see him as you do, for they would have to deny their heart and religious feelings. Saying one is not a Muslim is not an inslut to the Prophet.
    Be blessed, Pakistan Zindabad. <3Recommend

  • Cautious
    Dec 31, 2010 - 4:55PM

    Intolerant, self righteous. xenophobic, poor, uneducated – bad combination. It’s pretty clear why Pakistan is reluctant to fight the Taliban – you are the Taliban.Recommend

  • Disco Molvi
    Dec 31, 2010 - 4:58PM

    Blasphemy Law is unIslamic.
    Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) forgave the the people of Taif for physically abusing him by stoning him, he forgave Abdullah Ibn Ubbay for his slanderous remarks against the Prophet(PBUH) and his family (The incident of Al-ifk as detailed in Surah An-Nur) and forgave countless other people for their atrocities against him.
    When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) didn’t demand any punishment, then what right do these Ulemas/Muftis/Alims and their followers have to demand death penalty for the same crime?
    That being said, Blasphemy is a shameful act to commit, be it against any religion or sect.Recommend

  • bvindh
    Dec 31, 2010 - 5:12PM

    I am genuinely impressed to see that Pakistan – “The land of the pure” is so utterly dedicated to preserving their essential islamic purity.
    Few more years of such dedicated purification efforts, the original vision Jinnah had for Pakistan will surely come true.
    Praised be Allah!Recommend

  • Paras Vikmani
    Dec 31, 2010 - 5:51PM

    strikes r the reasons y south asia is undevelopedRecommend

  • Schazad
    Dec 31, 2010 - 6:25PM

    Stupidity, I am telling you…..Recommend

  • Dec 31, 2010 - 6:32PM

    Just look at the above picture – because of this unproductive rabble Pakistan is the mess that it is today. And yet so called political leaders support these mullahs without thought for Pakistanis future let alone Islamic justiceRecommend

  • Baitho Baitho
    Dec 31, 2010 - 7:14PM

    there are two things out of which we just look at the first one while ignore the second one.
    i am against the amendment of blasphemy law, it should not be repealed but should be used in a professional and honest way.
    second point, the life that we live on daily basis is not the life of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and we Muslims not on daily basis but every moment disrespect out beloved Prophet. how many of muslims out there live the life of Prophet, how many are honest, truly religious as per Quran and sunnah..
    there should be a strike but should not harm anyone’s property or life.. but today we should promise ourselves that we would not disrespect our beloved Prophet in any case.. when we i.e. muslims go against our own religion then the kufars get confident.Recommend

  • Ashutosh
    Dec 31, 2010 - 7:28PM

    “The government on Wednesday told the National Assembly it would never repeal or amend a law which was an integral ‘part of Muslims’ faith’.”

    The government represents most people in Pakistan and should be considered the true voice and not the bloggers here, who think that they represent Pakistan and their views might be the view of Pakistan. So, while reading the reactions of the bloggers we should be keep in mind that these are just an insignificant minorities and have nothing to do with the realities of Pakistan.

    With such a support of the blasphemy laws, Pakistan should support similar laws being enacted by various western and non-Islamic countries.Recommend

  • Abdu Samad
    Dec 31, 2010 - 7:37PM

    Truth hurts, but this is a fact that if we deeply analyze the present situation in Pakistan; this situation is not the result of one or two or five years mismanagement but is a result of theocratic mismanagement from at least a 1/2 century.
    The last Prophet Muhammad PBUH was the greatest man who lived on this planet. In Quran GOD has praised him continuously with high most words. He was so kind & humble person, that when he used to pass thu a street in his own city, a Jewish woman who hated him used to throw garbage on him from behind the wall of his house. Prophet never complained. But for a few days, this woman did not throw the garbage and Prophet knocked her door and on permission entered. He found that that Jewish woman was sick lying on bed. He met with her in so nice way and prayed for her good health that lady converted to Islam. This was the character of this greatest man.

    On the contrary character of our narrow-minded Mullahs is shameful. They are doing strikes in whole country just in order to enforce the death penalty of a Christian woman who might had made some mistake or may be not on provocation by her fellow Muslims women. Maximum punishment in an Islamic state for such kind of emotional mistakes that Mullah say blasphemy] should be financial penalty or a prison not more than 3 months. Now these guys want death penalty for that woman because according to them; she did speak insult against prophet. But our question to them is, that what they have done when there were even cartoon of the greatest man?

    Islam which is fully contained in Quran never imposes such kind of ridiculous blasphemy laws.

    Islamic education should be given only in universities by deploying real Muslim teachers and not Mullahs in Madrassas.Recommend

  • Conspiracy Tehreek
    Dec 31, 2010 - 8:33PM

    All this to protect a man made law..to justify killing in the name of God.Recommend

  • abdullah
    Dec 31, 2010 - 9:29PM

    all these maulvi leadres r the biggest hypocrites coz they dont live according to islam .having a beard and wearing shalwar kameez according to sunnah does not make u muslim..they never spoke against talibans who bombed our country and gave wrong message regarding islam ,all these mullahs r disco mullahs …they have destroyed our nation………….only way 4 our nation 2 survive is 2 get these hypocrite mullahs behind the bars forever.Recommend

  • ismaeel
    Dec 31, 2010 - 9:36PM

    Every one has the right to protest but Blasphemy law should be amended at any cost… Recommend

  • Abdu Samad
    Dec 31, 2010 - 10:00PM

    With reference to my previous comments:

    Your have heavily censored my comments and have taken away the most important part that was real medicine for the cure though it was slightly bitter in taste but was not unethical – Sorry to say you guys are suppressing free thought & this is very harmful for any society Recommend

  • faraz
    Dec 31, 2010 - 10:06PM

    Barelwis and Deobandis are followers of Hanafi sect. Now the funny thing is that Imam Abu Hanifa categorically declared that a non-muslim cannot be killed for Blashphemy. He argued that when a Muslim blasphemes against the Holy Prophet (PBUH), he becomes a ‘murtid’ ( who repudiates Islam after embracing it) whose punishment is death. While, a non-Muslim can never be a ‘murtid’, so he can never be killed!

    Seriously, our mullahs are hopeless.Recommend

  • faraz
    Dec 31, 2010 - 11:34PM

    Initially Imran supported amendment in Blashphemy law.

    http://www.insaf.pk/News/tabid/60/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/5118/Imran-for-amending-blasphemy-law.aspx

    And now he has joined the mullahs in spreading hatred against minorities. And what about implementing Islamic laws regarding his own past deeds?Recommend

  • Jan 1, 2011 - 7:06AM

    Totally ignorant law. Should be repealed now. This law is a grave violation of human rights. Everybody has the right to think what they think believe what they believe. We Muslims donot have the monopoly over morality.Recommend

  • Jan 1, 2011 - 7:22AM

    Indeed we need Scholars of Islam and not Mullahs – the Mullahs are the worst hypocrites playing with Islam and innocent impressionable Muslims as though they themselves are gods. The worship of Mullahs is blasphemy – which is basically what Islam has become in PakistanRecommend

  • hassan.asif
    Jan 1, 2011 - 3:18PM

    For specific complaints and enquiries, please email web@tribune.com.pk Best regards (Web Desk)Recommend

  • Anoop
    Jan 1, 2011 - 7:16PM

    These laws are here to stay. Recommend

  • Mohsin
    Jan 2, 2011 - 7:09AM

    Documentary on Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan

    Blind Faith – Part I

    Blind Faith – Part II

    Spread the word.Recommend

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