Pakistan Islamic plan strike to condemn prophet cartoons

Pakistan's ruling party and hardline Islamic groups on Saturday issued a joint call to hold a nationwide strike on March 3 to condemn the publication of Prophet Muhammad cartoons in Western media. The leaders of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League party and a six-party coalition of religious groups also urged people to boycott the products of those countries where the cartoons have been printed.

Under Pakistani laws, insulting the prophet or Islam's holy book, the Quran, can be punished with the death sentence. The groups announced a schedule for rallies across the country, including one in Islamabad on Feb. 19, to pressure countries to take action against newspapers that published several blasphemous caricatures.

Another rally will be held in the eastern city of Lahore on Feb. 26, the groups said in a statement, which didn't provide details about which businesses should close during the strike.

"Western countries have started a campaign to malign our religious leaders, Islam and the holy prophet," Ahmad said in a statement. He added, "Massive rallies and the complete strike will be a message for the Western countries that we are united and we can do anything to protect the honor of the Prophet Muhammad."

The plans were announced by Qazi Hussain Ahmad, head of a six-party alliance, after presiding over a meeting also attended by moderate political leaders. Several large rallies have been held across Pakistan recently. The latest came Friday when thousands of people protested in the nation's biggest cities.

People in this Islamic nation have been outraged by the cartoons originally printed in a newspaper in Denmark. Papers in other countries, mostly in Europe, reprinted them. Muslims are angry because Islamic tradition bars any depiction of the prophet, reports the AP.

N.U.

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