11/02/2009, 00.00
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News massacre by extremists as opposition to ‘Islamisation” grows

by Fareed Khan
Human rights activist and columnist call for a return to Ali Jinnah’s vision, which includes freedom of religion. Islamist movements warn the government not to change the laws “if it wants to stay in power”. A suicide attack in Rawalpindi kills 34 and wounds 30.
Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Islamic fundamentalists were behind for a new suicide attack this morning that left 34 people dead and 30 wounded near a hotel in Rawalpindi. But new voices are being raised against the Islamisation of the country by the Taliban.

The attack in Rawalpindi saw a suicide bomber blow himself up in a car park behind the four-star Shalimar hotel, next to a bank where customers were queuing to cash their paycheck. The hotel is not far from army headquarters.

Against this backdrop, prominent voices are being raised in the Pakistani press, calling on the government to return to the principles laid down by Ali Jinnah, father of the nation, based on the separation of state and religion, respect for religious freedom and protection of minorities.

Today the Pakistan Christian Post published an article by human rights activist Ghazal Bhatti in which he apologised to Ali Jinnah, the nation’s founding father, because the principles embodied in “one of the most important speeches of [. . .] history,” were not respected. In his address of 11 August 1947 to Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly, Jinnah in fact championed the principles of “equality” for all and “freedom of worship”.

Ardeshir Cowasjee, a columnist for the Dawn newspaper, also wants the nation to defend religious freedom and equal rights and end anti-minority violence, in order to live up to the spirit of its founder.

“What can be saved, [. . .] is the spirit of Jinnah’s Pakistan as expressed by him on that distant August day,” he wrote inspired by an e-mail calling for a return to the founder’s ideas,

In the debate about Islamisation, the Pakistan Christian Post backs the AsiaNews campaign against the blasphemy laws. The online Protestant publication has acknowledged our campaign, and is urging its readers to send it their comments and promote the initiative.

At the same time, the battle over the blasphemy laws goes on in Pakistan. The country’s Islamist parties are openly opposing any changes to the laws, warning the authorities not to give in to “pressures”.

With this in mind, Jaamat Ahl-e-Hadit Pakistan and Tehreek Tahafuz-e-Haqooq Ahl-e-Sunnat held meetings yesterday in which proposals to repeal the blasphemy laws were condemned. Instead, they warned the government not to amend the law “if it wants to remain in power”.

Similarly, the Sunni Ittehad Council announced a countrywide protest on 6 November against what it describes as a conspiracy aimed at amending and repealing the blasphemy laws.

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