Undeterred by scathing criticism from several quarters over his bounty offer, the railways minister remains defiant.
Ghulam Ahmed Bilour – who belongs to the liberal Awami National Party (ANP) – said on Friday he would announce head money for anyone who blasphemes against Islam.
Addressing a congregation in Peshawar’s famed Masjid Muhabat Khan, Bilour said it was unfair on the part of the West to defend the sacrilegious movie as “freedom of expression”.
Bilour came under criticism from Western countries as well as others in Pakistan for his $100,000 bounty for the filmmaker who made the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims.
However, the bounty offer earned him “goodwill” of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. The TTP praised him and removed him from their “hit list”.
Bilour was, however, unmoved by the TTP decision. He said that he did not fear death because he believes “only God decides how and when someone will die”.
The minister called upon the United Nations to criminalise blasphemy against Islam.
The government and Bilour’s own party have disowned the bounty offer. However, Bilour informed the gathering that he attended a recent meeting of the federal cabinet, where no one objected to his bounty offer.
“Neither the prime minister contacted me on the matter nor did my party issue me any show cause notice.”
The minster condemned rioting, violence and arson attacks on Ishq-e-Rasool Day. “I condemn the rioting and subsequent destruction and the burning of a Church in Mardan. This created a negative image of Islam and sent a wrong message to the world.”
Right-wingers and religious parties have praised Bilour for his “bold” stand on the issue. The Tehrik-e-Khatam-e-Nabuwat announced a ‘Tamgha-e-Shujat’ (Medal of bravery) for Bilour to show its support for him. The award will be presented to him in a Hurmat-e-Rasool conference to be held in Peshawar in the next few days.
Addressing the same congregation, Maulana Tayyab Qureshi extended full support for Bilour and said that the minister was following in the footsteps of saints and companions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). He said Bilour was the first person to have taken such a “bold step”, adding that Peshawar should also be credited for this because Bilour made the bounty offer in this city.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2012.