Pakistan Rally Backs Blasphemy Law


Tens of thousands of people have rallied in the Pakistani city of Karachi against possible changes to the blasphemy law that was behind the killing of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab.

A large number of police officers guarded Sunday's demonstration, which forced the closure of businesses and roads in the area. Participants chanted slogans and waved the flags of religious parties.

Taseer was killed in the capital, Islamabad, last Tuesday over his views in favour of the blasphemy law's amendment. That liberal stance offended the country's increasingly powerful conservative religious base.

Qari Ahsaan, from the banned group Jamaat ud Dawa, addressed the crowd from a stage, saying: ""We can't compromise on the blasphemy law. It's a divine law and nobody can change it.""

""Our belief in the sanctity of our prophet is firm and uncompromising and we cannot tolerate anyone who blasphemes. Whoever blasphemes will face the same fate as Salman Taseer.""

But speaking to Al Jazeera from Islamabad, Omar Waraich, Pakistan correspondent for the UK's Independence newspaper, said:""The reality is that there are no moves afoot right now to amend this law in any way. The government and the ruling party [Pakistan People's Party, or PPP] have backed off that.""

""It [the rally] certainly means that a more radical, more intolerant mood has become mainstream in Pakistan for the moment.

""For the moment the liberal voices have been silenced.""