The arrests took place on the anniversary of the death of Punjab’s governor, murdered because he had defended a Christian, Asia Bibi. Activists and ordinary people braved death threats and attended the memorial service.
Lahore (AsiaNews) – Lahore Police arrested a group of 110 imams yesterday whilst celebrating the murder of Salman Taseer.
The arrest of the Islamic clerics took place on the sixth anniversary of the death of the Governor of Punjab, who was "punished" because he had defended a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, and had spoken out against the "black law" on blasphemy.
Speaking to AsiaNews, some activists slammed a climate of religious fanaticism and the country’s deep contradictions.
"On the one hand,” said Rana Kashif Javed, “the Government of Pakistan loudly expressed its intention of implementing the National Action Plan and reiterated the supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law; on the other, religious extremists take to the streets and block the capital of Punjab province, violating fundamental human rights." According to the activist, "all this is a constant threat to our country."
The imams were detained and arrested on Main Boulevard Gulberg, where they were staging a rally to celebrate the death of the murdered governor. Their goal was to block the city and prevent the memorial service.
Defying the threats by radicals, activists and ordinary Pakistanis gathered a few tens of kilometres away, in the Lalik Chowk area. Syeda Deep, the organiser of the vigil, said that the participants waved placards, chanted slogans and lit candles against terrorism and religious fundamentalism.
"They came here,” she said, “despite the death threats and reiterated that they would not be terrified by fear of the neo-fascist mullahs."
“In Lahore, religious intolerance has reached the highest levels,” said Samson Salamat, the Christian chairman of the Rawadari Tehreek, a movement for tolerance. “Islamists tried to block the memorial. This is ridiculous considering that Mumtaz Qadri, the Salman Taseer’s self-confessed murderer, was found guilty by the law and hanged."
“What the imams tried to do is a serious violation of freedom and fundamental rights,” Salamat added. “What is even more serious is that all this has happened event though the National Action Plan clearly calls on the government and institutions to stop such activities."
Salamat believes that Pakistan "will not be a peaceful country until the State itself does not take decisive action against militant groups that commit 'hate crimes' and spread intolerance in society."
For Kashif Javed, Salman Taseer "was an honest ruler. The way his family and other supporters – who defend the law, peace, tolerance and equality – are targeted is unconstitutional."
Taseer’s son Shaan was recently the subject of a fatwa because he called for prayers for people unfairly accused of blasphemy.