Anti-Islam film: Chaos strikes capital

Published: September 21, 2012
An enraged protester pictured near a burning police bunker as demonstrators attempted to reach the US Embassy in Islamabad. PHOTO: MYRA IQBAL/EXPRESS

An enraged protester pictured near a burning police bunker as demonstrators attempted to reach the US Embassy in Islamabad. PHOTO: MYRA IQBAL/EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: Thousands protesting against an anti-Islam film clashed with the police close to Islamabad’s diplomatic enclave on Thursday in chaotic scenes that left at least 80 people injured.

There have been dozens of demonstrations around Pakistan over the trailer of a movie titled “Innocence of Muslims”, but Thursday was the first time protests in the capital turned violent.

The clash between the police and protesters, mostly students spearheaded by the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba and supported by the traders’ unions, lasted up to eight hours.

Police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and even live ammo (aerially) as demonstrators tried to enter the heavily-guarded enclave, home to most Western embassies, including the US, British and French missions.

The interior ministry called in the army to protect the area after protesters almost broke through a barrier of shipping containers set up by the police.

Five platoons of the Frontier Constabulary (FC) and an equal number of Rangers were also deployed at the Constitution Avenue. However, no protester managed to get that far, said a police official.

“We want all Americans living inside the diplomatic enclave to be handed over to us,” a police official quoted one of the protesters as saying.

All entrances to the red zone were blocked with cargo containers and over 2,000 police officers, many of whom were in riot gear, were deployed.

Earlier in the day, a group of school and college students managed to breach a police cordon near Dhokri Chowk, where they destroyed a police mobile and pelted policemen with stones. “We managed to push them out and that was the only small breach,” said a senior police official.

“We have come here at the call of our seniors. They said the Americans have insulted our Prophet (PBUH),” said Shahid Iqbal, an eigth-grade student. “I will kill Americans once I get to them,” added his class-fellow, Mehmood.

The clashes further intensified as 3,000 traders and religious organisation activists from Rawalpindi joined the students.

“The protesters included a large number of members of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and Islamist student unions’ activists. Some of them even resorted to aerial firing,” said a police official.

Around 55 policemen and 35 protesters sustained injuries in the clash.

Police rounded up over three dozen protesters, including members of religious organisations and their student wings. A majority of them were later released after a deal between the city admisitration and a delegate of religious leaders. However, police said they would book people who led the protests and those who damaged public property.

A case is yet to be registered.

The angry mob also set on fire a police post at the five-star Serena Hotel. The luxury hotel came under attack as a few demonstrators managed to enter the car park and damage vehicles.

Hotel security moved to protect the hotel, which was hosting a number of foreigners and locals at the time of clash.

No one was allowed to exit or enter the hotel for almost three hours.

There were more rallies against the film elsewhere in Pakistan on Thursday, the largest of which was in Lahore, where a boisterous crowd of around 4,000 staged a peaceful gathering.

Other smaller protests were seen in Karachi, Multan, Chaman and Azad Kashmir.


In Quetta, some 2,000 students paraded on the main airport road before gathering outside the Quetta Press Club where they burnt US and Israeli flags.

Around 100 Christians denounced the film in their own protest in the border town of Chaman. They carried placards and banners that read: “We are with Muslims against blasphemous film”.


Relatively peaceful demonstrations were observed across Peshawar on Thursday. Various political parties took part in the rallies, including JUI-F, PPP and PML-N’s minority wing.

Posters and pamphlets were also distributed urging residents to participate in protests outside the US consulate in Peshawar.


Speakers at a rally against the film on Thursday threatened to behead American nationals trying to enter Mansehra district.

The threat has forced the local administration to heighten security in the Kaghan area where over a dozen international cycle champions from foreign counties are staying to participate in the Himalayas Tour 2012.

With additional reporting by Hassan Ali in Peshawar, Muhammad Sadaqat in Mansehra and additional input from AFP

Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2012.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (35)

  • It Is (still) Economy Stupid
    Sep 21, 2012 - 2:57AM

    Power of Social Media:
    It mobilized the army of a country
    It caused Arab Spring
    Is this a preview to Pakistani Spring


  • Cautious
    Sep 21, 2012 - 3:01AM

    Your leaders called for a holiday to protest this film knowing the risk of violence was almost a 100% – shame on them & shame on the protestor who’s violence denigrates your religion and your country. By now anyone who can read knows the American govt has denounced this film and made it clear that under the US Constitution it can do nothing more.


  • It Is (still) Economy Stupid
    Sep 21, 2012 - 3:01AM

    Power of Social Media:
    Mobilized people of North East India in Bangalore due to few min of video clip sent from Pakistan
    Mobilized people of entire Pakistan due to few min of video clip from USA
    so is Pakistan is getting taste of its own medicine?


  • Sahara
    Sep 21, 2012 - 3:03AM

    Look at the picture and the writing on his head band. Mother of all ironies. Zihad underway by the warriors of allah against the very citadel of islam–the capital city of islamabad. Mother of all ironies.


  • Ahsan Nabi Khan
    Sep 21, 2012 - 3:08AM

    If Their Prophet Is Holy, Are Christians Not Holy? The Belief In The Messiah Is The Spirit of Prophethood. And A Christian Is The Body Of Christ.


  • Nadir
    Sep 21, 2012 - 3:13AM

    They want the West to ban the video, while banned organization run amok.


  • suraj
    Sep 21, 2012 - 3:41AM

    Probably these will escalate tomorrow..


  • saeed
    Sep 21, 2012 - 4:27AM

    @Cautious: these things happen anyway. With public holiday they minmize the damage.Leaders are smart they know with demonstrator there are also people who take advantage of situation and they attack open office and market.


  • Muslim
    Sep 21, 2012 - 4:37AM

    Simple plain stupidity shown us by, what r we achieving here by burning our own cities? what diff will it make to US or the film maker?


  • Azi
    Sep 21, 2012 - 5:30AM

    One of my new friend (a white american) today asked me where I was from. I was so ashamed to tell him Pakistan. I thought i’d just lie but then it came out. His response was, ohhh they don’t like have jobs there for people?

    He was 100% spot on. Be it that jobs are available or not, Pakistanis LOVE to take part in property destruction, religion is just an excuse.


  • Hamid Ahmed
    Sep 21, 2012 - 5:38AM

    Does these protest raise the status of Prophet of Islam? will Islam gain anything from these senseless protests? Will Pakistan gain some thing? these are same people who gave us Taliban and are the product of people like Zia, who gave us Islam? These protest has nothing to do with Honor of Prophet of Islam, these are cheap tricks of mullahs to get attention.


  • Singh
    Sep 21, 2012 - 6:35AM

    Wow, Religion of Peace or piece?


  • Faraz
    Sep 21, 2012 - 6:47AM

    whoever made that video, you have truly been successful in what you wanted to achieve. Its not a religion of peace anymore. Killing our own people, destroying our own property? to ‘restore honor! Recommend

  • Kamran
    Sep 21, 2012 - 7:42AM

    The west is laughing. They don’t have to sent their army to destroy our cities. Our own people our doing it themselves.


  • Salman
    Sep 21, 2012 - 8:02AM

    . None of them live the way prophet P.B.U.H has asked them to live and here they are protesting for his honour. Lakh LaanatRecommend

  • Sep 21, 2012 - 8:08AM

    As one Christian fellow said, Muslims denigrate Jesus by calling him a Prophet, when in fact he is believed to be divinity by Christians. Isn’t that blasphemy?

    Do you see anyone killing and maiming for the insult they feel?


  • Gratgy
    Sep 21, 2012 - 8:25AM

    Someone insulted me yesterday, so now I am going to burn my house down. That will teach him not to insult me in future.


  • antony
    Sep 21, 2012 - 8:53AM

    I am eagerly looking for ET to update Friday’s news of Pakistan and especially after prayers. Its so interesting and lot of action and thrill on whats going to happen.. Inshallah!! .


  • Haris Chaudhry
    Sep 21, 2012 - 9:37AM

    The whole world is scared of how emotionally vulnerable we are as people.

    To show our love to the sanctity and respect for our prophet, we organise violent mobs. Then destroy public property and disrupt the life of city folks.

    Can these marauding mobs not see the irony ? Are we so dumb and so irrational that we dont even use any commonsense ?

    We are absolutely doomed as nation. The madmen are let loose and the world thinks what if these madmen are joined by those in position of control of our atom-bums.

    Horror !


  • Mahakaalchakra
    Sep 21, 2012 - 9:42AM

    There seems to be a collective feeling of frustration and rage that resides just beneath the surface of Pakistani male and is set off by the most arbitrary and mundane. What is it about Pakistani mentality today that makes it so arrogant and violent? I think Pakistan is suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder… Look it up.. It will open your eyes….Some psychologists called it manifestation of “accumulative anxiety” which has build up over the time in Pakistani society like steam in a pressure cooker reaching a point of blasting the lid. Pakistanis have become venerable to the continuous volley of half-truths and glorified delusions that have been coming our way from dictators, textbooks, paid columnists and media crackpots. What’s more, today, evensome of the most educated young Pakistanis have lost the capacity to question what is dished out to them as Islamic/Pakistani history and ideology. They are still not prepared to face an obvious truth that may call the very essence and foundation of their so-called ideology into question.


  • sajida
    Sep 21, 2012 - 10:00AM

    misguided youth,political rivalry and inefficient administration,all contributed to what happened in Islamabad. It is sickening to see young boys in school uniform with school bags throwing stones at police and indulging in unlawful activities.Were their parents watching this or the teachers who give them lectures on discipline? Everyone is out to get whatever mileage they can get out of this.Believe me there was no love for PROPHET in whatever happened yesterday,it was just one big tamasha by all concerned to please their masters.


  • Pir Bulle Shah
    Sep 21, 2012 - 10:04AM

    Nobody can insult our Holy Prophet and hope to live in peace again. I am proud of our people.


  • Observer
    Sep 21, 2012 - 10:12AM

    “They said the Americans have insulted our Prophet (PBUH),” said Shahid Iqbal, an eigth-grade student. “I will kill Americans once I get to them,” added his class-fellow, Mehmood.”

    How horrible! An eighth-grade boy wants to kill! This shows how degenerate Pakistan and Pakistanis have become. How can anyone put the idea into youngsters” that they should kill someone for such frivolous reason! Religious intoxication has taken Pakistan to the lawless and primitive 7th century. They don’t obviously belong in the 21st century. Pakistan is doomed.


  • zohaib
    Sep 21, 2012 - 10:22AM

    could we please stop blaming religion for individual acts? It is not Toyota’s fault is someone over-speeds and collides, its the driver’s.


  • Helpless Pakistani
    Sep 21, 2012 - 11:27AM

    Unfortunately I was on the road today only to buy formula milk for my 6 months old son. I got caught up in the mob. The peace loving, love-struck followers of Prophet(pbuh) dragged me out of my car, beat me up, and set the vehicle on fire(proof of which can be shown in clips shown by various TV channels). I could not call for help because the phone service has been shut down, ofcourse. Adding insult to injury, police won’t register an FIR against these soldiers of Islam because, in the words of the SHO, these goons are ‘only protesting peacefully and for the right reasons’. Where do I seek justice in this land of the pure?Recommend

  • Enlightened
    Sep 21, 2012 - 11:43AM

    Islamabad had been the only city which was considered safe in Pakistan but this tag may not hold good for long. The Pak govt should urgently look for a safe haven to operate from and who else than China its best friend, whose help can be sought, might offer its Xiangling province for safe functioning of the Federal govt.


  • Sep 21, 2012 - 11:47AM

    @Azi: dont be ashamed to lie.most pakistanis in USA TELL OTHERS THAT THEY ARE INDIAN MUSLIMS.


  • usman
    Sep 21, 2012 - 1:30PM

    what about the law against anyone who says holocaust didnt happen?


  • usman
    Sep 21, 2012 - 1:33PM

    what about the law of imprisoning anyone who denies holocaust?


  • Uzair
    Sep 21, 2012 - 2:35PM

    @usman: what law? This particular fuss is about the USA, where anyone can say whatever about the holocaust and deny it to their heart’s content, and they will not be punished. The holocaust denial law exists only in the countries that did the holocaust, such as Germany, since they understandably feel guilty about their past. No such law exists in USA or Denmark (the usual targets of our hate).

    What our people completely fail to grasp is the concept that in countries like the USA there is freedom of speech and that just because someone’s feelings are hurt they don’t go around destroying public property or killing others. For example there is a fundamentalist Christian group that pickets outside the homes of soldiers who have died in war and while the soldier’s family grieves inside the group holds placards saying that the deaths are a good thing and God’s punishment for homosexuality in USA. 99% of people in the USA bitterly hate this group but no-one suggests violence or jailing them.

    As someone else commented on one of these Tribune articles, there is a difference between hate speech and hateful speech. If you threaten others or ask people to do violence, that is hate speech and is punishable in any reasonable legal system. But if you mock anyone (including their beliefs) why should you be punished? And the corollary question is: is our religion and faith so utterly weak that we can not stand the thought of criticism and use violence as our first resort when criticized?


  • Sep 21, 2012 - 2:45PM

    @Pir Bulle Shah:
    Looks like they are still living in peace while your entire country is in turmoil. Your argument is invalid.


  • don
    Sep 21, 2012 - 4:39PM

    When US can bomb Iraq, Afghanistan and can ban the assets of Alqaeeda and Taliban, why can’t it ban such movies from being released.
    These are not my words but you have shown to the world that you can’t understand but with force. So let’s wait and see who will rule the world.Recommend

  • Azi
    Sep 21, 2012 - 5:39PM

    @ahmed sadiqq:

    I know, when I am applying for a job interview or something then I have to tell the truth least in US. Being a Pakistani automatically is a rejection. So I wanted to thank my Pakistani people back in homeland. Thank you for ruining our name, making all my efforts earning myself a masters degree worthless and making our chances even slimmer than before for any hope to a good prosperous life.

    Now, how can I denounce my citizenship? I don’t want too be a part of this country anymore.


  • Faraz Hassan
    Sep 21, 2012 - 5:51PM

    well actually each person commenting here is releasing his own frustration .specially endians dont wanna mis a chance to degrade Islam and Pakistan i would like to inform all of u we r doing what we feel perfect Islamabad is ours and we have all rights to record our protest against blasphemy of Our Beloved Rasullullah S.A.W. so mind ur own business and take care of new dehli and those who feel ashamed to be a Pakistani just leave Pakistan last not least us Pakistanies dont care what west or our enemies think about us because what should matter to them that what we think about them Recommend

  • Azi
    Sep 21, 2012 - 6:21PM

    @Helpless Pakistani:

    This is no land of pure. If anything its opposite. I am sorry for what happened to you. Hopefully you and your family are ok.


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