Lahore: A grouping of 40 religious and hardline groups, including the Jamaat-ud-Dawah, have rejected the death sentence given to the assassin of Governor Salmaan Taseer and called for a countrywide protest against the verdict on October 7.

The parties came together under the banner of the Tehrik Namoos-e-Risalat for a meeting held here on Wednesday to discuss a coordinated response to the death sentence given recently by an anti-terrorism court to Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, the self-confessed assassin of Taseer.

Addressing the meeting, JuD chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed said the court's ruling was part of a "global war against Islam".

He called for "unity of the nation to give a strong message to the enemies of Islam".

Saeed claimed Qadri did what any Muslim would do whenever anyone dared to commit blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed.

"We strongly condemn the court's verdict and it should be withdrawn at once," he said.

The parties demanded the removal of anti-terrorism court Judge Pervez Ali Shah, who gave the verdict against Qadri, and contended that his decision had gone against Islamic injunctions and the ideology of Pakistan.

A resolution passed at the meeting said: "Handing down death sentence to Qadri shows the judge has no knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence and, thereby, he should not be allowed to perform his duties as a judge."

The resolution claimed the people of Pakistan were not ready to "tolerate" the judge and could not see him holding his office any longer.

There have been unconfirmed reports that leaders of some hardline parties have offered a reward for anyone who kills the judge.

Maulana Amir Hamza, a senior JuD leader, suggested that the parties should form a committee comprising 'qazis' (judges of Islamic law) to try Qadri in line with Shariah.

Tehrik Namoos-e-Risalat convener Sahibzada Abul Khair Muhammad Zubair regretted that CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who was arrested in Lahore for gunning down two Pakistani men earlier this year, was set free while Qadri was given the death sentence "to please Jews and Christians".

Jamaat-e-Islami chief Syed Munawar Hasan described the verdict as an outcome of the "secular environment" prevailing in Pakistan and announced that his party would protest against the judgement across the country on Friday. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam spokesman Maulana Amjad Khan said the verdict was "aimed at pleasing the US at the cost of creating unrest among Muslims".

Other leaders said no Muslim could compromise on the honour of the Prophet and "every citizen has the same feelings as Qadri".

Almi Majlis Tuhaffuz Khatam-e-Nabuwat chairman Maulana Aziz Ahmed suggested the parties should adopt a joint stance on Qadri’s case and struggle for his release.

Tanzeem-e-Islami chief Aakif Saeed claimed "vested interests were making efforts to make Pakistan a secular country" and there was need for unity to "foil these nefarious
designs".

Barelvi parties like the Sunni Tehreek and Jamiat Ahl-e-Sunnat had been protesting against the anti-terrorism court's verdict since it was announced on October 1.

Deobandi groups like the Jamaat-e-Islami and Ahl-e-Hadith or Wahhabi organisations like the JuD have now joined the protests following Wednesday’s meeting.

Qadri, a police guard who was part of Taseer’s security detail, gunned down the outspoken politician outside a restaurant in Islamabad in January for criticising Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law.

(Agencies)