Pakistan crippled by strike over blasphemy laws

To me this says volumes about the difficulty of advocating for human rights in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan is crippled today by a strike prompted by religious extremists who are threatening the government over potential changes to the nation’s blasphemy laws.

Friday’s strike saw businesses shuttered and transport workers walking out in towns and cities across the country.

There was no public transport in the southern city of Karachi, where demonstrators blocked traffic as part of the industrial action.

The BBC’s Ilyas Khan says bus owners in the Sindh province capital may have feared their vehicles could be torched if put on the road.

Quetta, the capital of the southern province of Balochistan, also ground to a halt.

There was a partial shutdown in the national capital of Islamabad, the north-western city of Peshawar and Lahore, capital of Punjab.

One Sunni cleric in Islamabad warned in his Friday sermon that any change to the blasphemy law would happen “over our dead bodies”.

The strike was held to protest against a private member’s bill submitted to parliament.

It seeks to amend the law by abolishing the death sentence and by strengthening clauses which prevent any chance of a miscarriage of justice.

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