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December 26, 2010
LAHORE: The police claimed to have averted a clash between pro- and anti-blasphemy law protestors at Faisal Chowk on Christmas day.
Around two dozen Tahaffuz-i-Namoos-i-Risalat (TNR) activists staged a sit-in at Faisal Chowk in the morning to press the government not to pardon blasphemy convict Aasia Bibi.
Meanwhile, a few dozen members of the Pakistan Christian Democratic Alliance, Masiha Milan Party and Human Liberation Commission began a rally from Davis Road. They carried crosses and banners demanding that the blasphemy laws be repealed and Aasia Bibi be released from death row.
When they reached Faisal Chowk, the two sides started competing over which could shout their slogans the loudest. Witnesses said that the TNR activists tried to head towards the Christian rally, but the police managed to keep them apart.
Deputy Superintendent of Police Pervaiz Butt, who was at the scene, said that both parties dispersed peacefully. He said there may have been a scuffle if the police had not been around.
Aslam Parvaiz Sahotra, president of the Masiha Milan Party, said that Christians had a right to protest and the government must ensure that this right is not usurped by religious extremists. “Were it not for the police, the TNR protestors would have pounced on us,” he said. He said the Christians’ protest was meant to be a response to the rallies in favour of the blasphemy laws, which he believed were meant to “ruin” the celebration of Christmas.
The Tehreek-i-Hurmat-i-Rasool, an offshoot of banned group Jamaatud Dawa, also held protests in favour of the blasphemy laws in Shehdadpur, Chakwal, Narowal, Pasroor, Faisalabad, Sargodha and Toba Tek Singh. Dr Mehdi Hassan, chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said that clerics should not be allowed to schedule protests during the celebration of Christmas and other religious holidays.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 26th, 2010.