KARACHI: A shutter down strike was being observed in several parts of Pakistan on Friday on the call of religious parties to protest against what they believe are plans by the government to change the country's blasphemy law.
All major markets and business centres were closed in big cities and towns.
In Karachi, no public transport was available and commuters were facing difficulties.
The strike was also being observed in Lahore, Gujranwala, Peshawar, Quetta, Kashmore, Hazara division and Kandhkot.
Protest rallies and demonstrations were being carried out against any proposed amendments to the blasphemy law. In Karachi, protestors demonstrating on the Mauripur road blocked the intersection and suspended traffic.
Moreover, a report said, protestors, carrying sticks and chanting anti-government slogans, blocked traffic by setting tyres on fire in Karachi’s Shirin Jinnah Colony. A police team reached the scene and persuaded the demonstrators to end the blockade, it said.
In the southwestern town of Chaman, thousands of protestors chanting anti-American slogans rallied and warned the government against any move to change the blasphemy law.
The law came under the spotlight after a Christian woman was sentenced to death in November by a court on charges of insulting Islam. Critics say the law is used to persecute religious minorities, fan religious extremism and settle personal scores.
“This government is planning to change the blasphemy law under foreign pressure but Muslims of this country will never allow it to do so,” Abdul Raheem Mazhari, a cleric and a local leader of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam party, told protestors.
Earlier, on Thursday, Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khurshid Shah appealed to religio-political parties to call off Friday`s strike and categorically declared that the government was not bringing any bill to amend the blasphemy law.
Shah said that after his categorical statement on the floor of the National Assembly on Wednesday an attempt to bring people on the street by exploiting religion was detrimental to the country’s interest.
He alleged that those agitating on the issue were exploiting religion for ulterior motives.
The strike call was given by the “Namoos-i-Risalat” conference held recently under the auspices of Majlis-i-Tahafuz-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwat.