LAHORE/KARACHI/PESHAWAR – Two protesters died on Monday as rallies in Pakistan over an anti-Islam movie intensified and the government blocked access to YouTube after the video site failed to remove the film.
Thousands took to the streets in towns and cities across the country to vent their fury at the film, “Innocence of Muslims”, which mocks the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his holy companions, burning American flags and effigies of US President Barack Obama.
Hundreds of people demonstrated in the northwestern town of Warai, in Upper Dir district, setting fire to a magistrate’s house and the local press club before a protester was killed in an exchange of gunfire with police.
Another demonstrator died Monday afternoon after being shot in the head during clashes with police near the US consulate in Karachi, where one protester had died on Sunday as well.
Up to 3,000 university students, teachers and employees marched in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, chanting anti-US slogans and demanding a ban on the “Innocence of Muslims” movie.
The low-budget film, thought to have been produced by a small group of Christian extremists in the United States, has sparked violent anti-American protests across the Islamic world. A total of 19 people have now died in violence linked to the film, including four Americans killed in the Libyan city of Benghazi.
“One person was killed and two injured during exchange of fire between the police and protesters,” Muhammad Irshad, a senior local government official in Upper Dir said. Officers baton-charged protesters, who were chanting anti-US slogans, and fired tear gas to try to disperse them, he said.
They also fired live rounds into the air, prompting the demonstrators to return fire, Irshad said, although it was unclear who fired the fatal shot. Ihsanullah Khan, police chief for Upper Dir said 22 protesters had been arrested and the situation was under control.
Anti-US feeling runs high in Pakistan’s restive northwest, which borders Afghanistan, and Taliban and al-Qaeda militants have long had strongholds in the area. At a protest in Peshawar, some 350 activists from Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, a student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), blocked a main road by setting fire to tyres and burning a US flag.
A large number of people including trade unions and various religious parties had staged protest at Shobiz Chowk in Nowshera. The protesters burnt tyres on the road and blocked GT Road to every kind of traffic.
In Rawalpindi, a large number of people demonstrated on the Sixth Road on the call by Sunni Tehreek. The protesters blocked the Murree Road. The protests were held in Multan, Muzaffarghar, Kabirwala, Rahimyar Khan and others part of Punjab.
Religious and political parties, trade unions, lawyers, civil society activists and students participated in these demonstrations and demanded the government make efforts to get stopped such activities against Islam.
Following a strike call of Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), legal fraternity of Punjab held protest rallies and strongly condemned the profane movie. Various lawyers associations urged the government to cut diplomatic relations with the US and other European countries.
In Lahore, the Lahore Bar Association (LBA) and Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) members took out a rally from Aiwan-e-Adl and joined a main protest at GPO Chowk. The protesters chanted slogans against the US and the makers of the blasphemous movie.Earlier, LBA and LHCBA convened general house meetings and approved resolutions condemning the making and uploading the movie.
The vociferous protests against the anti-Islam movie also continued in Balochistan where protest rallies were taken out by lawyers, students and traders. Lawyers’ community boycotted all court proceedings in higher and sub-ordinate courts in Quetta and other parts of the province to condemn the movie which they said had hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims.
In the border town of Chaman, in southwestern Balochistan province, where trucks supplying troops with the US-led Nato force in Afghanistan cross the frontier, about 500 students demonstrated, burning an effigy of Obama.
Dozens of lawyers took out a protest rally in capital city Quetta which after passing through various parts of the city culminated at the Quetta Press Club, where they staged a demonstration. They shouted anti-US and anti-West slogans, saying that through an international conspiracy the Muslims were being portrayed as terrorist and extremists, while their religious figure were being dishonoured. Rebuking the filmmaker for hurting the sentiments of Muslims and sabotaging interfaith harmony across the world, they demanded stern action against him and his associates.
Hundreds of students also protested in Quetta, with caricatures of Obama paced on a donkey as a gesture of humiliation. Carrying placards and banners they rallied from the Govt Sandeman School and after marching on Jinnah Road and passing through Manan Chowk assembled in front of the Press Club.
In Mirpur Khas, Sindh, a protest demonstration was held on the call of Ulema Action Committee. All shops, business centre in the city remained closed and taking part in the protest, transporters also kept their vehicles off the roads.
In the port city of Karachi, youths from JI rallied, chanting anti-US slogans and trying to reach the American consulate before being dispersed by police with tear gas. Heavy containers and barbed wire were positioned across roads leading to the consulate to stop vehicles and individuals reaching it.
Firing incidents were also reported in other parts of city including Clifton, Moosa Lane Lyari, Bheempura and Abul Hasan Esphani Road. A man was killed in firing in Moosa Lane and another at Clifton while a man was injured in Bheempura.
Meanwhile, in the backdrop of protest rallies at the US Consulate, traffic police have closed Mai Kolachi Road up to Jinnah Bridge slowing down the heavy traffic flow of the office goers on I I Chundrigar Road on Monday morning here. Long queues of vehicles heading towards Tower, Kemari, Boat Basin and Clifton were seen due to logjam caused by the closure of Mai Kolachi Road.
The Sind government also deployed Rangers at US Consulate, 5-star hotels and other important places after violent protest in which several vehicles including police vans, motorcycles, banks, CNG stations were set ablaze on Sunday night.
The violence on Sunday erupted after a teenager was killed in firing and over a dozen others sustained injuries in firing on a rally taken out by Shia organisations Wahdatul Muslmeen and Imamia Students Organisation (ISO) from Numaish Chowrangi on M A Jinnah Road. When the rally reached near Native Jetty Bridge, on its way to US Consulate located at Mai Kolachi Road by the evening, the police tried to stop it using water cannons and tear gas. The police then resorted to firing in which one youth was killed and another eight injured.
Two more die as anti-US protests intensify