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Saturday, January 1, 2011
ISLAMABAD: A complete shutter-down strike was observed across the country on Friday as religious parties held rallies and protests against any alleged move by the government to amend the blasphemy law.
All major business centres, markets and bazaars remained closed throughout the day, while there was thin traffic on roads in all the major cities of the country. The Tehreek Tahaffuz-e-Namoos-e-Risalat gave a strike call on Thursday. It was supported by the traders community and transporters. Strict security measures were adopted in all the major cities to avoid any unpleasant event.
Like other parts of the country, rallies were also held in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. A large number of people attended the rallies, holding placards and shouting slogans against Interior Minister Rehman Malik and former information minister Sherry Rehman for allegedly supporting the amendment to the blasphemy law.
Addressing the protest rallies, the speakers said: “We will not tolerate anyone who will make any amendment to the blasphemy law. The only punishment for blasphemy is capital punishment and nobody has the right to amend this law.” Addressing a rally in Islamabad, Shabab-e-Milli Pakistan leader Shahid Gilani said if Aasia Masih, a blasphemy convict, was guilty, she must be punished according to the law.
“The Punjab governor, Sherry Rehman and Rehman Malik should be very careful while giving remarks about the blasphemy law,” another speaker said. Majority of business centres in the twin cities remained closed. Leaders of the business community said protecting the sanctity of Holy Prophet (PBUH) was not the duty of religious parties only, but of all the Muslims belonging to all walks of life.
All major markets and business centres were closed in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar, besides other cities. Public transport was not running in Karachi. Violence flared up in the commercial hub of Pakistan as police and protesters clashed during a protest strike.
Police said protesters near the home of President Asif Ali Zardari in Karachi pelted stones as they shouted slogans including ‘we we’ll sacrifice our lives — we’ll save the sanctity of the Prophet (PBUH)’. Teargas shells were fired to disperse them.
“We will start a civil disobedience movement if the government makes any amendment to the law,” the chairman of the Sunni Ittehad Council, Sahibzada Fazal Karim, told AFP. Shopping centres, colleges and universities were closed, and examinations scheduled for Friday in Karachi were postponed.
The president of Karachi’s local transport association, Irshad Bokhari, told AFP that public transport remained off the road as part of the strike. Protest rallies were held and a shutter-down strike observed in Quetta, Zhob, Loralai, Sibi, Mastung, Kalat, Dera Murad Jamali, Nushki and Chaghai districts of Balochistan.
Vowing to foil any plan to amend the blasphemy law, thousands of people in Gilgit threatened the government of dire consequences, if the PPP-led government moved to amend the blasphemy law.
“We are ready to sacrifice our lives for the sanctity of the last Prophet (PBUH). We will not allow anybody to amend the blasphemy law,” said Maulana Nisar Ahmed, one of the top religious leaders in Gilgit-Baltistan, while addressing a mammoth gathering. Luqman Hakim, the JUI-F chief of Gilgit-Baltistan chapter, Maulana Khalil Qasmi, Khateeb Moti Masjid, and others also spoke on the occasion.
More than 10,000 people turned up in the rally that culminated peacefully after passing a declaration against any alleged move of the government to amend the blasphemy law. The declaration also criticised Rehman Malik and Sherry Rehman. Most of markets in Gilgit remained closed all the day as the Islami Council had also extended its support for the strike.
A complete shutter-down strike was observed in Bahawalpur on the call of the Tehreek Tahaffuz-e-Namoos-e-Risalat. Rallies and shutter-down strike was also observed in Ahmadpur East, Hasilpur, Yazman, Smasatta, Bahawalnagar, Chistian, Haroon Abad and Lodhran.