Rushdie bashing on in Pakistan, Blair under fire


Islamabad : Traders here have announced a Rs.10 million ($140,000) reward for anyone who beheads writer Salman Rushdie while Pakistani politicians have condemned Britain's decision to honour him with knighthood.

Support TwoCircles

Outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose government recommended the honours list to Queen Elizabeth, has also come in for criticism.

Around 200 traders in Islamabad's Aabpaqra Market Thursday announced a reward of Rs.10 million for anyone who beheads Rushdie, the author of "The Satanic Verses" which was banned in Pakistan as blasphemous.

"We will give Rs.10 million to anyone who beheads Rushdie," Ajmal Baluch, secretary general of the Islamabad Traders Association, told a cheering crowd. He also called on Islamic countries to boycott British products in protest against the honour for Rushdie.

Ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Qaid president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain said "one should not be surprised by the British government's decision to award a knighthood to author Salman Rushdie", Associated Press or Pakistan (APP) reported.

"Tony Blair is personally against the Muslims," Hussain told the National Assembly while speaking on a point of order.

He also castigated Rushdie in the strongest possible words, the report in Daily Times said. "He is a mad man. He is a thief and he is a scoundrel."

Hussain suggested the author should only be called 'Rushdie', as "Salman is a holy name and it is not appropriate to bracket it with Rushdie".

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sher Afgan Niazi said the house had passed a unanimous resolution in this context. "The government has strongly protested and told the British high commissioner that Pakistanis have been deeply hurt by their action," Niazi said.

The minister contended that Rushdie had made no contribution to literature and, in fact, the British government had negated its own traditions by knighting him."In Britain only those are knighted who have won a Nobel Prize."

He, however, pleaded against a second resolution in the house after the one passed last Tuesday.

Attaur Rehman of the rightwing conglomerate Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) said Pakistan should withdraw as a frontline state in the "war on terrorism" because it also includes Britain and the US.

Pakistan's three exiled leaders, former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif and Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain, came under fire when some regretted their silence over the issue.

Bhutto, while admitting that the British action had hurt Muslims everywhere, had Wednesday issued a statement demanding the dismissal of Religious Affairs Minister Ejaz-ul-Haq, who justified suicide attacks by militants in retaliation to Rushdie being knighted.

Punjab assembly speaker Chaudhry Afzal Sahi Thursday declared that according to Islam, a blasphemer should be killed and if any blasphemer comes in front of him he "would definitely kill him".

He said the issue of awarding the title of 'Sir' to Rushdie was a religious issue. Being a Muslim, he said, he was not ready to compromise on the issue.

"First, I am a Muslim and later the Punjab Assembly speaker," Daily Times quoted him as saying.