LAHORE: Around a thousand people gathered at Data Darbar on Wednesday in support of Mumtaz Qadri, the man who killed Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer one year ago, and called for his release.
Supporters of various religious parties that form the Tahaffuz Namoos-i-Rasalat Mahaz (Front for the Protection of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) Honour) staged protests at the Lahore Press Club, Minar-i-Pakistan and other places before gathering at the Darbar. The participants, mostly Barelvi Muslims, held up portraits of Qadri and chanted slogans in his honour.
“Mumtaz Qadri expressed his love for the Holy Prophet (pbuh) by shooting a blasphemer, and you can’t even shout slogans,” said an announcer from the stage, trying to elicit a loud response from the crowd.
They also roared as their leaders announced a resolution denouncing the media for not giving them ‘proper’ coverage. When the clock struck 4:25pm, the hour marking exactly one year since Taseer was killed, by standing, raising their arms and pledging to follow Qadri “against every blasphemer”.
One speaker, Allama Muhammad Tahir Tabassum, suggested that the government auction off the gun with which Qadri shot the governor (), “like an auction of the bats or hockey sticks of famous athletes”. It was then announced that the Sunni Ittehad Council was willing to pay Rs100 million for the “holy gun”.
Allama Muhammad Nawaz Bashir Jalali paid tribute to Qadri for “remaining firm” that his actions were justified and right. He said Qadri had gained international fame for the killing, and the love “not just of mankind, but birds too”.
“Today is the day to renew our promises to defend the honour of the Prophet (pbuh),” said Pir Atharul Qadri. He said Taseer’s killing was justified by Islamic injunctions as he had committed blasphemy. He said blasphemers deserved to have their tongues cut off. He accused the media of downplaying their protests.
Advocate Habibulah Saeedi, one of the lawyers who famously garlanded Qadri when he was brought to the Rawalpindi courts, said that the legal fraternity backed the assassin.
“If Malik Ishaq, the killer of dozens of Muslims, can be released, why can’t Qadri?” asked Mujahid Abdul Rasool, referring to the founder of the outlawed Lashkar-i-Jhangvi. He said that the Sunni Ittehad Council would wage jihad against the PML-N, PPP, Sippah-i-Sahaba, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Lashkar-i-Taiba.
Dr Raghib Naeemi said the “true lovers” of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) would continue “eliminating the blasphemers” regardless of the views of the outside world.
Dr Ashraf Asif Jalali, Khan Muhammad Qadri and Pir Syed Zaheerul Hasan also addressed the participants.
A resolution was adopted at the end of the rally asking President Asif Zardari to declare clemency for Mumtaz Qadri and punishment for Asia Bibi, the Christian woman jailed for blasphemy whose release Taseer had campaigned for.
The resolution also demanded the permanent closure of Nato supply lines through Pakistan; purging of all Pakistani air bases of US personnel; the arrest of the killers of Dr Sarfaraz Naeemi and terrorists who bombed shrines; the removal of Ahmedis from government posts; and that “a free, fair and impartial investigation into the memo scandal be ensured and those responsible be tried under treason charges”.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 5th, 2012.
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