As frenzied protests continued across the country, one more protester died on Monday in what seems to be an outpouring of outrage against a US film mocking Islam with demonstrators clashing with police, hurling rocks and shouting: “Death to America.”
The movie entitled “Innocence of Muslims” has sparked a week of furious protests outside US embassies and other American symbols in at least 20 countries.
In Pakistan – where the death toll has reached two – thousands of protesters including lawyers, students and political workers burned US flags and chanted anti-American slogans in various cities to mark the second day of protest.
A demonstration turned violent in the Warhi tehsil of Upper Dir when protesters clashed with the police. The skirmish left one protester dead and three students injured on Monday.
The rally started when hundreds of students from the Government Degree College for Boys and Government Technical College in Warhi marched towards the Warhi Press Club. They pelted the building with stones and burned furniture and computers after storming it. Angry protesters also trashed the sub divisional magistrate’s office and burned two government cars after the police refused to release two student protesters who were arrested earlier in the day.
Simultaneous protests also took place in Charsadda, Mardan, D I Khan, Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Kohat and Tank.
In Karachi, hundreds of activists belonging to a student organisation, Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT), braved tear gas shells and aerial firing in a bid to lodge their protest in front of the US Consulate.
About 50 teargas shells were thrown and the police resorted to aerial firing to disperse the crowd but the IJT protesters kept running towards the bridge. Sixteen protesters, four policemen and one camera man were injured during the day.
In retaliation, the activists also hurled stones at the police and smashed the windshield of several police mobiles. Heavy clouds of tear gas had left a number of pedestrians and rally participants choking.
The police was able to round up about three dozen protesters; however, most of them were able to escape and continued their rally towards the US Consulate via M T Khan Road.
“We, in general, are not against protests if they were staged in civilised manner,” said Foreign Security SP Shad Ibne Masih while talking to The Express Tribune.
Activists left the area after failing to approach the consulate but residents of the area continued their protests till late night. They pelted stones, burnt tyres and even brought down at least three electricity poles, blocking the M T Khan Road.
Protests turned violent in Hyderabad when an elderly leader of a shopkeepers’ association barely survived lynching.
Haji Nasrullah Khan, chairman of the Hala Naka Association, was attacked by a furious mob late on Sunday night on charges of blasphemy. Several hundred men surrounded his residence in the Hala Naka area and three people were injured in an exchange of fire between the angry mob and Khan’s family members.
Khan had been blamed for uttering profanity against the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in reaction to the forced closure of the market by a group of boys who also fired aerial shots.
Meanwhile,a multi-purpose protest rally was organised in Khairpur by the PML-N to condemn the blasphemous movie, the local government ordinance and government’s apathy towards Sindh’s flood victims.
The rally was led by MNA Marvi Memon, PML-N’s women wing president of the Khairpur chapter Zeenat Shaikh and Khairpur chapter President Abdul Majeed Shaikh.
Various parts of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), including Mirpur, joined in the anti-US chorus and took to the streets.
Similar protest rallies were also held in Muzaffarabad, Kotli, Bhimbher, Sudanoti and Bagh Rawalakot.
In the capital, nurses of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) staged a protest and demanded exemplary punishment for the producer of the film and an unconditional apology from the US government.
Around 500 angry protesters in Lahore tried to reach the US Consulate but were driven back by police with tear gas.
Demonstrations were held in Quetta by students and lawyers with the lawyers’ associations boycotting proceedings of the Balochistan High Court and other sub-ordinate courts.
(WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY OUR CORRESPONDENTS IN HYDERABAD / SUKKUR / ISLAMABAD / QUETTA / MIRPUR / LAHORE AND ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, September 18th, 2012.
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