Pak Islamist parties warn govt against amending blasphemy law

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M Zulqernain

Lahore, Jan 30 (PTI) Thousands of supporters ofPakistan''s hardline Islamist groups rallied in Punjab''sprovincial capital today to press the government not to amendthe controversial blasphemy law, even as JuD chief Hafiz Saeedclaimed the people of Kashmir would "get freedom soon".

Addressing some 40,000 protestors at Mall Road, oneof Lahore�s main thoroughfares, Saeed said: "It is not onlyAfghanistan but Kashmir and Palestine will also get freedomsoon."

Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Saeed, who is linked to thebanned terror group LeT, said decisions were now being made inthe mountains of Afghanistan and not Washington, and the USwould soon have to quit the war-torn country.

Calling for the framing of an international law onblasphemy, he said the whole of Pakistan has united to protectit and any attempt to amend the law would be considered"blasphemy".

"We are ready to sacrifice our lives for the Prophet,"he said.

This was the second major show of strength by theTehrik Tahaffuz-e-Namoos-e-Risalat, an alliance of Islamistgroups opposed to any move to amend or repeal the blasphemylaw.

The grouping had earlier organized a rally in thesouthern port city of Karachi on January 9 that was attendedby nearly 50,000 people.

The rally, which started at Naseer Bagh thisafternoon, swelled to a gathering of about 40,000 by the timeit reached the Mall Road.

The religious and hardline groups were backed by twoleading political parties, the PML-N and PML-Q.

Former Punjab Chief Minister and senior PML-Q leaderChaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and PML-N leader and parliamentarianKhwaja Saad Rafique rubbed shoulders with hardliners likeSaeed at the rally.

In his address, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief MaulanaFazlur Rehman announced that another rally would be held inPeshawar on February 20 to keep up the pressure on thegovernment not to amend the blasphemy law.

He said protests would continue every Friday in citiesacross the country.

The protestors carried flags of various parties andgroups, including the JuD that his linked to the banned terrorgroup LeT.

The charged activists shouted slogans against the USand the West and demanded the release of Mumtaz Qadri, thepolice guard who assassinated former Punjab Governor SalmaanTaseer for opposing the blasphemy law.

Leaders of some groups became upset when they weretold that the rally would not be covered live by TV newschannels.

Maulana Fazlur warned the media that the religiousparties would launch protests if all such rallies and publicmeetings were not properly covered.

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