01/15/2011, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Radical Islamists demonstrate against the Pope throughout Punjab

by Jibran Khan
The protests took place yesterday in Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi, involving the main political parties and radical groups in Pakistan. Statements of Benedict XVI for the repeal of the blasphemy law defined as "an attack on the hearts of Muslims."

Karachi (AsiaNews) - Islamic extremist groups and radical political parties yesterday demonstrated throughout Punjab against the Pope's call to repeal the blasphemy law. The statements of Benedict XVI have been called "an attack on the hearts of Muslims." In his speech to diplomats, the Pope has in fact cited the death of Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab, who was killed last Jan. 4 for his criticism of the blasphemy law . The demonstrations were held in Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi by the Tehrik-e-Tahaffuz Namoos-e-Risalat, an alliance of Islamic groups opposed to any attempt to amend or repeal of the law. Among them also radical parties Jamaat - ud Dawah ( Jud), Tehrik, Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl.

During the protests, Jud leader, Hafiz Saifullah Masoor, criticized the Pope for his support of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death in 2009 on charges of insulting the prophet Muhammad.

Amir Ameerul Azeem of Jamaat-e-Islami, accused the government instead of "cowardice" in its handling of the Aafia Siddiqui case, a Pakistani woman detained in the U.S. on charges of terrorism. In addition to demanding an official protest against the statements of the Pope, Azeem has ordered the withdrawal of all the amendments made in parliament against the blasphemy law.

The leader added that another big protest will be held in Lahore on 30 January to "force the rulers not to play with the sentiments of Muslims."
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