Islamic radicals block Islamabad, MPs must continue to swear allegiance to Mohammed

About 3,000 members of the Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah party have been camped for a week. Police have closed the schools and blocked the streets with containers. The radicals demand the resignation of the Minister of Justice and the application of the blasphemy law.

Islamabad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Thousands of Islamic radicals, armed with sticks and batons, are blocking one of the access routes to Islamabad. They belong to the radical Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah, led by imam Khadim Hussain Rizvi. The radicals are demanding the resignation of Zahid Hamid, Justice Minister, "guilty" of having approved a law that does not foresee the oath of allegiance to the Prophet Mohammed by parliamentarians. They also demand that the state strictly apply the blasphemy law against "Ahmadi impostors".

Approximately 3,000 demonstrators have been camped since last week near a highway, one of the main connecting arteries of Pakistan's capital. The sit-in is creating considerable disruption to traffic and freight transport. To ward off violent actions by radicals, authorities have forced the closure of schools near the event and blocked the access to the streets leading to the city center by placing containers on the roadway.

The diatribe arises from a reform of the electoral law approved by the federal government in early October. It provides for an amendment to the oath required by all parliamentarians. Earlier, the deputies were required to swear loyalty to Muhammad as "the High Prophet" through the formula "I solemnly swear"; now the phrase has been changed to "I believe".

The radicals oppose the change. Imam Rizvi said, "We will not allow anyone to change Islamic laws." His followers promise: "We are willing to die in order to protect the prophet's honor." They also accuse Minister Hamid of protecting ahmadis and being a member of their sect. For his part, the government representative rejected the charges and repeated on several occasions that the change of formula was just an "office error".

Meanwhile, the Tehreek-i-Labaik extremists defend the blasphemy law and argue that the capital punishment for those who blaspheme Islam is a just punishment, especially for the apostasy of Ahmadiyya. Since Islamic Republics declared them non-Islamic (heretic) in 1974, members of the Ahmadi community are subjected to violence and persecution. In 1984, General Zia ul Haq introduced some laws that criminalize the ahmadis who identify or "present" themselves as Muslims. Between 1984 and 2015, at least 256 people were killed; 65 dead were denied burial in Islamic cemeteries; 27 places of worship have been demolished. "There is only one punishment for those who dishonor the prophet: beheading," the demonstrators have chanted for a week.