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PAKISTAN: Traders' strike against blasphemy today

Traders in Karachi organize strike to protest publishing of controversial cartoons

Monday, February 6, 2006

Karachi --- The Alliance of Market Associations, Karachi, a grouping of small traders, has announced that it would observe a shutter-down strike on Tuesday (Feb. 7) against the publication of blasphemous sketches by certain European newspapers.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the alliance which was presided over by its Chairman, Ateeq Mir. The association also appealed for a boycott of the products of the European states where the print media had carried the sketches.

It urged the government to severe diplomatic relations with these states until they tendered an apology. Meanwhile, the Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI) has endorsed the strike call.

In a joint statement, President Haroon Farooki and other office-bearers of the KCCI flayed the act of blasphemy by the newspapers, and said that the irresponsible act was bound to have a negative social and political impact.

"The notion of 'freedom of expression' cannot be translated into an unlimited freedom leading to an abuse of others' faith," it said.

President of the Catholic Association Herbert Fernandez and members of the executive committee of the organization have condemned the publication of the blasphemous sketches.

In a statement issued here on Monday, they urged the government to summon the ambassadors of the countries concerned and register official protest with them. It said that the Catholic Association fully supported Pope Benedict XVI in condemning the publication of the sketches.

"The freedom of speech does not mean freedom to offend followers of any religion," it added.