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Rights activists, Islamists face off in Karachi

Anita Joshua
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Voicing support: A rally in support of Mumtaz Qadri, alleged killer of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, in Rawalpindi on Sunday. — Photo: AP
Voicing support: A rally in support of Mumtaz Qadri, alleged killer of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, in Rawalpindi on Sunday. — Photo: AP

On a day when civil rights activists registered a complaint against a Karachi-based cleric for hate mongering and inciting violence as a symbolic gesture to show that the moderate Pakistani voice cannot be silenced, “religious” right-wing parties managed to draw a large gathering in the commercial capital on Sunday to warn against any attempt to amend the blasphemy laws.

The public meeting had been called last month amid indications of a possible amendment to the blasphemy laws. Though the government has since then time and again reiterated that it would not amend the blasphemy laws, the “religious” right-wing parties refused to call off their protest action.

And, the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer last week gave the protest action more fuel with people holding placards lionising his assassin and maintaining that Malik Mumtaz Qadri was a hero and not a criminal.

Meanwhile, as individual efforts to file cases against clerics who used Friday prayers for hate mongering and incite violence came to naught, civil rights activists of Karachi grouped together to register a complaint against a cleric who declared Pakistan People's Party legislator Sherry Rehman a “non-Muslim” for tabling a Bill to amend the blasphemy laws.

The complaint was lodged on behalf of Ms. Rehman and slain Punjab Governor Salman Taseer's son, Shaan, at the Darakhshan Police Station against the Sultan Mosque cleric Munir Ahmed Shakir for inciting violence during last Friday's sermon. The cleric is also said to have declared Ms. Rehman “ wajib-ul-qatal” (permissible to be killed).

While filing the complaint, civil rights activists acknowledged that this was symbolic in nature but asserted it would send across a message that no one can declare anyone a “non-Muslim”, incite violence and get away with it.

A parallel effort is also underway to petition the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take suo motu notice of a Peshawar-based cleric who has announced an award for the murder of Aasia Bibi, the Christian woman who has been sentenced to death by a sessions court for allegedly committing blasphemy. It was Aasia Bibi's case which prised open the blasphemy debate in November 2010. Taseer had incurred the wrath of the “religious” right-wing for visiting her in prison and describing the blasphemy laws as a “black law”.


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