Police used tear gas to disperse a crowd of more than 2,000 protesters trying to reach the US consulate in Peshawar on Tuesday, as fresh demonstrations erupted against an anti-Islam film.
Protesters chanting anti-US slogans and burning the US flag gathered outside the US mission to vent their fury at the sacrilegious film “Innocence of Muslims” as law enforcement agencies avoided any direct confrontation with them.
Thousands attended the protest rally organised by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI)’s youth wing Shabab-e-Milli (SB). JI’s provincial general-secretary Shabbir Ahmed Khan, provincial spokesperson Advocate Israrullah and Peshawar chief Bahrullah Khan led the protesters.
The protest was the largest gathering to march up to the US consulate since protests broke out against the profane movie. The rally participants pelted police – who were guarding the US consulate – with stones and the force retaliated with tear gas. Riot police with armoured vehicles had also been deployed to block access to the consulate. There were no reports of casualties during the protest till the filing of this report.
“We used tear gas shells and lobbed gas grenades because the protesters were trying to come closer to the sensitive area,” senior police officer Imtiaz Khan said. He added that more than 1,000 police were on hand to block the road to the diplomatic facility.
Addressing the crowd, JI leader Shabbir Ahmed lashed out at the United States, demanding the government expel the American ambassador and close its missions in Pakistan. He called for a provincial strike on Friday, while also demanding the US to formally apologise to the Muslim world over the sacrilegious movie and punish those responsible for producing this film.
Ahmed criticised the government for being “subservient to the US” and praised protesters who had killed the US ambassador in Libya.
“We are ready to sacrifice our lives to uphold the dignity of our Prophet (PBUH),” he said.
Some 1,500 protesters of a pro-Taliban religious party also held a protest rally in Chaman on the Afghan border, police and witnesses said.
The marchers, carrying banners and placards, chanted: “Down with America,” and “Hang the film makers” and “Long live Mulla Omar”, “Long Live Taliban and Long Live Osama bin Laden,” witnesses said.
Some 1,500 people participated in the rally, police officer Ghulam Rabbani said.
Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan have all blocked access to YouTube, following the video-sharing website’s failure to take down the anti-Islam film.
(Additional input from AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, September 19th, 2012.