KARACHI - Around a dozen people were wounded in a clash during demonstration by Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba near French Consulate against publication of blasphemous caricatures. The injured included two photo journalists and a deputy superintendent of police (DSP).

Following the nationwide call of protest IJT, the student wing of rightwing Jamat-e-Islami party, held a protest at Teen Talwaar (three swords) square in Clifton after Friday prayers. Holding placards, protesters shouted slogans against the publication of blasphemous caricatures by a French satirical weekly magazine which were later reprinted by various other Western newspapers and magazines.

The situation turned violent when the protesters started moving towards the French Consulate , located near Bath Island in Clifton, and police tried to stop them. Police was forced to use teargas shells, water cannons and batons against the charged protesters, who attacked the police back by pelting them with stones while trying to push towards the consulate. The demonstrators kept on playing hide-and-seek with the riot gear, turning the area into a virtual battlefield.

During the clash photo journalist Arif Hassan affiliated with a news agency sustained a bullet injury. At least four policemen, including Frere DSP Iftikhar Lodhi, cameraman of a private news channel Adeel and around half dozen protesters were also wounded but none of them had bullet injury.

The police also detained over a dozen protesters and shifted them to different police stations of the South district. After the clashes, the police held negotiations with the IJT activists and protesters left for staging sit-in outside the Karachi Press Club (KPC).

IJT leaders said the participants just wanted to stage a protest sit-in outside the consulate and police also ensured them of their cooperation, but latter they started using power against them when they started proceeding towards the consulate. Karachi Union of Journalists President Asfar Imam condemned the act of police which resulted in injuries to media men, Aisf Hassan and Adeel.

On the other hand, DIG Abdul Khalique Shaikh said that they had no intention to use power and blamed protesters for creating law and order situation. Police allowed some of them to go to the gate of the consulate for submitting memorandum but suddenly some protesters started showing rage and throwing stones on police. Even some among the protesters resorted to firing bullets, he claimed. He said a case will be registered against the accused for attacking police but those detainees who came clean in the investigation will be freed.

IJT Karachi chapter head Hafiz Bilal Ramzan said that the violence would not have occurred if the police had allowed the protesters to stage peaceful protest outside the consulate. “The police indiscriminately fired live bullets and teargas shells, besides deploying water cannons. They forcefully barred the protesters from exercising their democratic right to protest,” asserted Ramzan. “Our only aim was to present a memorandum to the French Consul General, expressing our strong reservations over the publication of blasphemous sketches in the name of free speech,” he added.

A massive traffic jam was also reported on Teen-Talwar and its surrounding areas following the clashes while more contingent of police and Rangers were called at the site while they had sealed the streets leading to the French Consulate .