LAHORE: Several religious groups held protests on Wednesday against the reported burning of the Holy Quran by an American pastor in a Florida church in the United States.
Besides parties affiliated with the Deobandi and Wahabi schools, the protestors included a Christian organisation as well. The speakers at rallies organised by the former urged the people to prepare themselves for jihad against America. The Christians rally, however, also voiced opposition against the misuse of blasphemy laws in the country.
Addressing protesters in front of the US consulate, leaders of different religious parties vowed to struggle for strengthening the blasphemy laws, particularly Section 295-B (defiling of the Holy Quran) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
Among protesters were activists of Jamaatud Dawa, Tehrik-i-Hurmat-i-Rasool, Jamiat-i-Ahle Hadith, Sippah-i-Sehaba Pakistan, Jamaat-i-Ahle Hadith, International Khatame Nabuwat, Tanzeem Islami Pakistan, Jamia Manzoorul Islamia, and Jamiat Ulema Islam (F).
Jamaat-i-Islami separately held a protest rally from Wahdat Road Cricket Ground to Muslim Town.
Addressing the rally, speakers said that the only way to protect the Holy Quran and the injunctions of Islam was through jihad. They urged the protesters to resolve to sacrifice their lives for the destruction of the US. Jamaat-ud-Dawa Lahore president said it was the right time for Muslims to organise against anti-Islam forces and wage jihad. He asked the protesters to convince their neighbours to raise their voice for jihad.
Jamiat Ahle Hadith head Ibtesam Elahi Zaheer said that Terry Jones must be hung for burning the Holy Quran. He said just as they had succeeded in introducing death sentence for disrespect to the holy prophet (pbuh), they would also struggle to introduce the same sentence for defiling the Quran.
Pir Saifullah Khalid, head of Jamea Manzurul Islam said President Zardari must demand that the US hand over Jones to Pakistan so that he could be tried under Pakistani law. Younas Hasan, secretary of International Khatame Nabuwat, said Muslims must face the US. He said if the US cannot control such incidents, they would wage war against it. If the Holy Quran is not safe in America, he said, no American would be safe in Pakistan. He said the government should call a conference of all Islamic countries.
The rally organised by Central Christian Action Committee started from Nasser Bagh at Lower Mall and ended at the Charing Cross with a sit-in there. It protested the killing of Minorities Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti and demanded protection of life and provision of equal rights for the country’s minorities.
CCAC president Munir Masih Khokhar said that it was sad that Pakistan Day had become an occasion for protest rather than celebration.
He said Christians were being targeted across the country. “After Bhatti’s murder, two Christians have been killed and two injured in Hyderabad,” he said. He said whoever dared raise a voice in support of equal rights for minorities was being silenced.
The participants, including women and children, held placards condemning the murderers of Shahbaz Bhatti and Salman Taseer, the blasphemy laws and the recent incident of burning of Holy Quran in the US.
Former District Council member Zulfiqar Pervaiz Sindhu said the government must safeguard the rights of minorities. Former parliamentary secretary Peter Gill, Martin Javed, Aslam Parvaiz Sahotra, Saleem Gabriel, and Pastor Chaman Sardar also spoke at the occasion.
Later, the protestors issued a joint communiqué demanding the release of blasphemy convict, Asia Bibi; arrest of Shahbaz Bhatti’s murderers and improve security for Christian graveyards and churches.
It demanded election for minority members instead of nominations to the national and provincial assemblies on reserved seats.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 24th, 2011.