LAHORE, Jan 30: A big rally here on Sunday warned of a long march to Islamabad if the government attempted to amend the blasphemy law.A large number of charged activists of religious parties representing all schools of thought amid tight security marched from Nasser Bagh to Charing Cross on The Mall where leaders of mainstream parties like PML-N, PML-Q, PML-Z and Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf also joined them.
They were carrying flags of their respective parties as well as placards and banners inscribed with slogans in favour of blasphemy law and against Pope Benedict, American Congress and European Parliament. Many of them coming from adjoining areas of the provincial metropolis were also chanting slogans seeking release of Mumtaz Qadri, who had killed Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer.
Under the umbrella of Namoos-e-Risalat Tehrik, the religious parties under had been campaigning in the city for the last many days to mobilise the masses. Religious leaders visited various seminaries and some school chains run by religious schools and distributed leaflets to motivate them for joining the rally.
Police made tight security arrangements to avoid any untoward incident as all routes leading to The Mall were closed to traffic and pedestrians, causing traffic jams on many city arteries, especially in the downtown area.
The people willing to join the rally could enter from the Nasser Bagh or Masjid Shuhada side only after a thorough frisking and moving from walkthrough gates.
Security staff was deployed on buildings along both sides of the route from Nasser Bagh to the Charing Cross.
Speaking to the participants, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman announced another rally in Peshawar on Feb 20. He also announced that demonstrations would be held on Fridays to maintain the momentum of the movement till Feb 20.
He said the nation could put up with price hike, load-shedding and joblessness but not change in the blasphemy law.
He demanded that the government take a clear stance on blasphemy law instead of making vague clarifications.
Referring to the incident of killing of three people by a US citizen, he warned the rulers against setting Raymond Davis free without judicial trial, saying the people would take the law into their own hands if the government resorted to any illegal course. He advised Governor Latif Khosa to call on Mumtaz Qadri in prison as he (Khosa) was holding the office because of Qadri.
Jamaat-i-Islami chief Syed Munawar Hasan said the assemblies as well as the rulers would cease to exist if attempts were made to amend the blasphemy law.
PML-Q senior leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi said his party would be the first to quit the parliament if it dared to amend the law.
The Q League has 50 representatives in the 342-seat National Assembly.
Jamaatud Dawa amir Prof Saeed urged the rulers to work for an international legislation to curb desecration of Prophets all over the world.
He said the rulers who had taken oath on the Holy Quran should decide to sever diplomatic relations with the countries where blasphemous caricatures had been published.
JUP chief Sahibzada Abul Khair Zubair urged the political parties having representation in the parliament to take up the issue of protecting blasphemy law at the highest platform.
Tehrik-i-Insaaf vice-president Ijaz Chaudhry pledged that his party would not allow any change in the law.
He demanded public execution of Raymond Davis.
MJAH chief Senator Sajid Mir said the nation had registered a strong protest against any amendment to blasphemy law. “The Ummah is unanimous that blasphemer(s) deserves only death.” Islami Tehrik chief Allama Sajid Naqvi regretted that the government was not taking a clear stance on blasphemy law only because of US pressure.
PML-Z chief Ijazul Haq suggested giving a deadline to the government and if it failed to address reservations of the nation about the law, then a long march should be launched.
PML-N MNA Khwaja Saad Rafiq said: “My party is very clear that blasphemy law should not be amended and efforts should be made to stop its misuse.”
Ashraf Jalali, Abdul Qadri Ropri, Ibtesam Elahi Zaheer and others also spoke.