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Wednesday, 10 January, 2001, 16:24 GMT
Karachi police break up blasphemy rally
Pakistan Christians
Christians say the law unfairly targets their community
By Idrees Bakhtiar in Karachi

Police in Pakistan have fired tear gas shells and used batons to break up a protest against the country's blasphemy law.

The demonstrators, in the southern city of Karachi, were rallying against its alleged misuse.

Some of them have been arrested but the exact number of those detained is unclear.

The demonstration was organised by the All Faiths Spiritual Movement International, a body which says it represent Christians and certain Muslim sects.

Its leaders say it was set up to protest against the use of the blasphemy law to harrass Pakistan's non-Muslim minority.

Protesters at the Karachi rally carried banners and placards calling for an end to the misuse of the law.

Pressure

Eyewitnesses said heavy police contingents were posted at the demonstration.

The police were said to have fired tear-gas shells and charged the protesters with batons in order to break up the rally.

For some time now, the blasphemy law has aroused controversy in Pakistan.

Under the existing law, anyone accused of blasphemy can be immediately arrested by the police.

Soon after he seized power, military ruler General Pervez Musharraf tried to amend it.

He sought to make it mandatory for district officials to first investigate the charges before lodging a report with the police.

But he was forced to back down after protests from hardline religious groups.

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See also:

15 Mar 00 | South Asia
Pakistani rights abuse 'widespread'
05 Aug 00 | South Asia
Pakistani 'prophet' sentenced to death
17 May 00 | South Asia
Pakistan's blasphemy law U-turn
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