Hafiz Saeed publicly slams Pope, defends blasphemy law

Sunday, January 30, 2011

ISLAMABAD - In a rare public appearance, Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed Sunday addressed a rally in Lahore, capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province, and vowed to resist any change in the blasphemy law.

“What business the Pope has when he says that we should repeal blasphemy law?” he asked, adding that “the foreign countries want to give a message to their public that it is ok to demean Islamic religion”.

“We would not tolerate such a stance,” he said while referring to a statement of Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope Benedict had issued the statement about the need to repeal blasphemy law in the aftermath of Punjab province governor Salman Taseer’s assassination by his security guard Jan 4.

Taseer was gunned down by one of his guards for publicly taking a stand against exploitation of blasphemy law and seeking pardon for Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death on blasphemy charges.

The religious parties in Pakistan have since tried to justify the assassination on the grounds that Taseer infuriated the sentiments of Muslims by taking such a stand. They have also taken out rallies to advocate against any proposed change in the blasphemy law.

Addressing the rally, Saeed said, “The “anti-Islamic forces are out to conspire against Pakistan and I urge the government to severe all diplomatic ties with these countries, including the US.”

“The nation should remain united on this agenda and we would make our voice heard at the international stage,” he vowed.

Referring to the “war on terror” in Afghanistan, he said that “the decision has been taken and the US will have to bite the dust”. “I am sure that Palestine and Kashmir conflicts are also going to be resolved soon and we would not hesitate from making any sacrifices in this regard,” he said.

Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which existed earlier as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), is banned in Pakistan because of its links with militant organisations, but its office-bearers still keep making public appearances audaciously.

The Jamaat-ud-Dawa is also accused of masterminding Mumbai attacks in November 2008, and Saeed and Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi of the banned LeT are wanted by India in connection with the ongoing probe.

However, the Pakistani government has maintained that India is yet to provide enough evidence in this regard.

Interpol issued a red corner notice against Saeed and Lakhvi in September 2009 while the attempts by the Pakistani government to put Saeed under house arrest in 2008 and again in 2009 were quashed by the Lahore High Court in October 2009.

Filed under: Terrorism

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