Sunday, December 05, 2010

Pakistani religious hooligans fight efforts to save ‘blasphemer’

By Omar Waraich in Islamabad, The Independent, Dec 4, 2010

Protesters rally against Christian woman Aasia Bibi, accused of insulting Islam AP
Protesters rally against Christian woman Aasia Bibi, accused of insulting Islam
Hundreds of Islamist hardliners took to the streets of Pakistan’s main cities yesterday in support of the country’s prejudicial blasphemy laws and against two leading politicians they have threatened for speaking out against the persecution of a Christian woman.
At rallies in Karachi, Lahore and other cities, the crowds of protestors warned the political class against any attempt to amend or repeal the laws. They also chanted slogans denouncing Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, and Sherry Rehman, a liberal parliamentarian.

Mr Taseer and Ms Rehman were singled out for speaking out against the treatment of Aasia Bibi, an illiterate 45-year-old farmhand who has been handed down a death sentence for allegedly insulting Islam and its prophet. Mr Taseer visited her in prison and called for her to be pardoned. Ms Rehman has submitted a bill in parliament, seeking to amend the blasphemy laws. Both politicians are from the ruling Pakistan People’s Party.
Human rights groups say that the blasphemy laws are an abusive instrument invoked to punish Pakistan’s most vulnerable. They have overwhelmingly been used to settle political vendattas or afford Islamist extremists protection when they have targeted religious minorities.

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