Asia Bibi affair: Islamic parties set strike date for 24 December, same day as Christian march
by Jibran Khan
The High Court in Lahore could set date for Asia Bibi’s appeal against her death sentence for blasphemy as early as tomorrow. Islamic parties set up steering committee to stop amendments to the law, which has been a source of abuses. They also announce a strike for the same day as the Christian protest march.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Pakistan’s Islamic parties are setting up a steering committee to oppose any attempt to change the blasphemy law. Representatives of all Islamic parties met yesterday at the Zarghoni mosque in Hayatabad under Sahibzada Fazle Rabbani, head of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Pakistan. In the meantime, a decision by the High Court in Lahore concerning Asia Bibi’s appeal against her death sentence could come as early as tomorrow.

Participants at the Hayatabad meeting decided that provincial secretary general of Jamaat-e-Islami Shabbir Ahmad Khan would be the convener of the committee with each party represented by two of its members.

The committee also decided that 24 December would be a day of protest against the proposed amendments to the blasphemy law.

Religious scholars would deliver sermons highlighting the reverence for the Prophet Mohammad in the Friday prayers after which protest rallies would be held in all the province’s cities and towns.

The committee convener has called for a steering committee meeting on 27 December to devise strategy for a wheel-jam strike on December 31 against what they view as a conspiracy to change or abolish the blasphemy law in order to secularise the country.

For his part, President Asif Ali Zardari has repeatedly said that his government will take all the necessary measures to prevent the law from being abused.

Nazir S. Bhatti, president of the Pakistan Christian Congress, who is in exile in the United States, said that he was surprised about the announcement of the strike and demonstrations on 24 December. He called on Islamic parties to move their action plans to a later date since 24 December is part of Christmas celebration.

For Nazir Bhatti, the decision to hold a strike on 24 December harms Christians because on that day they will hold a march demanding the abolition of the blasphemy law.

In Hyderabad, Christians have decided to organise a new “Alliance of Churches”, adding their voice to the series of complaints about the misuse of the blasphemy law.

They note that the law was originally meant to protect the sanctity of the prophets of all religions and ensure they are respected, but that its misuse has created difficulties not only for Christians but also for other minorities because it is used to target many innocent people.

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