City shuts for blasphemy laws

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LAHORE – A shutter-down strike was observed on Friday at major business centres of Lahore on the call given by religious parties against proposed amendments in the blasphemy laws.
The traders’ community also joined the religious parties and kept their shops closed throughout the day. The strike was observed on the Tehreek Tahafaz-e-Namoos-e-Risalat (TNR) call. The city’s business and trade centres including the Shah Alam Market, Urdu Bazaar, Anarkali, Neela Gumbad, Mall Road, Hall Road, Gulberg Main Market, MM Alam Road, Hafeez Centre, Mozang, Ichara, Jail Road, Samanabad, Akbari Mandi, Azam Cloth Market, Lunda Bazar, Rang Mahal, Model Town, Brandeth Road, McLeod Road and other markets presented a deserted look on Friday while public transporters joined the strike and forced the public to either stay at home or travel in private vehicles.
Clerics, in their Friday prayers’ sermons, told people about significance of the law and intentions of the people who wanted to change it. After Friday prayers, the Aalmi Tanzeem-e-Ahle-Sunnat took out a rally at the Data Darbar. Protesters chanted slogans against Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Member of the National Assembly (MNA) Sherry Rehman. Syed Shahid Hussain Gardezi, Mukhtar Ashraf Rizvi, Hafiz Arif and Syed Mustafa Rizvi criticised the rulers for “aligning with the West’s agenda.”
The Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) held a rally outside the Lahore Press Club and observed a sit-in outside the Governor’s House. Jamia Naeemia Principal Dr Raghib Naeemi, Pir Atharul Qadri, Raza-e-Mustafa, Muhammad Ali Naqshbandi, Ziaul Haq Naqshbandi, Nawaz Kharal and others participated in the rally. Dr Ragib warned the federal government about its intentions and said that if the government did change the blasphemy laws, the faithful would follow Ghazi Ilmddin.
Kharal demanded the federal government to take action against Taseer and Sherry for hurting feelings of the masses.
Federal Religious Affairs Minister Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah on Wednesday, while speaking on the National Assembly’s floor, said that the federal government was in no mood to bring any bill to amend blasphemy laws. The minister also disowned the private bill moved by Sherry seeking changes in the law. On Thursday in a press conference,
Khurshid said that the federal government would not hurt feelings of 180 million Pakistanis by amending or repealing the blasphemy laws. But religious leaders turned down the minister’s statement and said that such assurances should come directly from the president or PM. The TNR has announced to hold a rally on January 9 in Karachi to further press the federal government about the Namoos-e-Risalat Law.
Mall Road traders took out a rally in front of the Shuhada mosque. They were holding placards with slogans against changes in the blasphemy laws. Trader leaders said that the business community was united for protecting blasphemy laws and chanted slogans against the federal government and the US. Tight security arrangements were observed on the Mall Road during the whole day to avoid any untoward incident.