Sidetracking reverence: On a day of ‘love’, riots rule

Published: September 22, 2012
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Policemen chase protesters on the Faizabad Interchange in Islamabad. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD JAVAID & MUHAMMAD IQBAL/EXPRESS

Policemen chase protesters on the Faizabad Interchange in Islamabad. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD JAVAID & MUHAMMAD IQBAL/EXPRESS

Protesters running away with loot in Peshawar. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD JAVAID & MUHAMMAD IQBAL/EXPRESS Policemen chase protesters on the Faizabad Interchange in Islamabad. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD JAVAID & MUHAMMAD IQBAL/EXPRESS

PESHAWAR / ISLAMABAD / LAHORE / KARACHI: It started as a state-sanctioned holiday to mark reverence for Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Before long, however, it descended into mayhem and chaos.

As tens of thousands took to the streets across Pakistan to protest against sacrilegious film ‘Innocence  of Muslims,’ a few hundred managed to pillage and ransack public property, cinemas, banks and fuel stations. Markets were vandalised, vehicles set ablaze.

Millions, meanwhile, were besieged at home and watched the chaos unfold on their television screens.

Crowds of inflamed men attempted to breach security cordons around foreign embassies and sensitive installations, and clashed with security forces when pushed back.

The Serena Hotel Chowk in Islamabad, the Native Jetty Bridge in Karachi, and the Shimla Pahari roundabout in Lahore – all close to the US Embassy, or its consulates – witnessed some of the fiercest pitched battles between baton-wielding and rock-hurling protesters, and policemen armed with anti-riot gear.

When the sun went down on Friday, over smouldering tyres and rock-strewn avenues, 26 people had died, and over 200 were injured across the country.

As the pungent smell of burnt rubber settled down, collective calls for restraint, and expressions of horror at the carnage, flew in from political and religious leaders.

Worst off: Karachi

Karachi witnessed some of the largest protests, and hence most casualties and injuries.

Twenty people were killed and 103 others were reported injured in the city. Police officials said a 100 people had been arrested.

The fiercest clashes took place at the Native Jetty Bridge, where protesters converged in an attempt to reach the US Consulate located close by. The police, however, had blocked all possible routes to the compound.

In other parts of the city, six cinemas, five banks, the Sheraton Hotel, fast-food restaurants and numerous other businesses were attacked violently.

Three policemen were among those killed in the clashes.

Peshawar spirals out of control

Peshawar was not far behind in the mayhem.

Anarchy reigned in the provincial capital, which resembled a dusty battlefield in most parts, as tens of thousands took to the streets to protest. The police were largely protecting the ‘red zone,’ where the US consulate is located.

In what was construed as the worst rioting in recent years, armed protesters set four of the city’s leading cinema houses on fire, damaged the chamber of commerce building and looted shops around the city.

At least six people were killed, and 65 others injured in the rioting.

Diplomatic enclave besieged

Fresh from the clashes on Thursday, the Islamabad police was better poised to keep infuriated protesters at a safe distance from the diplomatic enclave, which houses most Western embassies, including the US mission.

Clashes, nonetheless, were witnessed at the Serena Hotel roundabout where thousands of protesters from Rawalpindi and Islamabad had converged.

The angry mob managed to cross the first security tier, but was repelled by the police, said security officials. Rangers and the Army had also been called in to protect foreign missions and formed the innermost security ring.

Over 40 people were injured, including 20 policemen, but no casualties were reported from the capital.

Lahore largely peaceful

While protests in Lahore were largely peaceful, there were some areas where heavy containers and police contingents were unable to control angry protesters.

Apart from the roads leading to the US Consulate, most of the clashes took place on the nine-kilometres of The Mall road where several rallies converged.

Protesters attempted to reach the US consulate, but were unsuccessful. They directed their rage at the Governor House then, until pushed back by the police.

(Read: Chaos and capitulation)

Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (18)

  • Not me
    Sep 22, 2012 - 5:23AM

    Police and Rangers badly failed to provide security to citizens.in Karachi

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  • Nadir
    Sep 22, 2012 - 5:38AM

    Salute to policeman who had to deal with this madness for over two days, with little respite or appreciation.

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  • Khalid Pathan
    Sep 22, 2012 - 5:47AM

    What a shame? Is this how should the Ishq-e-Rasool day be observed? Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) preached Islam a religion of peace, however, our actions portray a totally different picture. Banned religious organizations and professional killers and looters, arsonists saw this day as an opportunity to carry out their agenda successfully. This pathetic situation does not show a ray of hope or light at the end of tunnel. Are we following the European example of entering into dark ages?

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  • Sep 22, 2012 - 5:58AM

    Why there is no coverage of peaceful protests?

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  • litmus
    Sep 22, 2012 - 6:15AM

    interesting to see that karachi saw the most violence. just a coincidence that it is also the most politically active?Recommend

  • Not me
    Sep 22, 2012 - 7:17AM

    By the way where was Rangers yesterday in Karachi.Had they taken the day off?Recommend

  • atheist
    Sep 22, 2012 - 7:37AM

    Hi All,

    All this protest is similar to what is being depicted in that thrid rate movie.. The voilence shown in the pakistani tv is very much similar to the people with knive in the movie.

    I do not think this was the right way to show love to your prophet…

    Secondly, I watch lot of good pakistani quawwali artist , especially Abida Parveen’s rendition of Bulle Shah, It contains a very deep phiolosphy and nobe values which is morally uplifting, As a matter of fact I love and respect abida jee, Why don’t you folks follow what Bulle Shah says that will be good for you all and rest of the world.

    Salam to Pakistani people..
    May you live peace..

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  • atheist
    Sep 22, 2012 - 7:52AM

    This act of voilence reinforces what was shown in that third rate movie. Mob of bearded people destroying property and killing people. So, all this protest had no meaning and as a matter of fact it has opposite effect.

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  • Butt
    Sep 22, 2012 - 8:22AM

    This is Pakistan’s ways of showing the world how peaceful they are. Losers!!

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  • Haris Chaudhry
    Sep 22, 2012 - 8:49AM

    Islamic republic of Pakistan !

    The nation carved out of the larger Hindustan for the muslims to live in peace and harmony !

    How ironic that the Muslims that live in Hindustan are far more peace loving, tolerant and progressive !

    The hindus that we were told were going to sideline muslims in a united India show more respect for other hindus and even the minorities than we show for our fellow muslims (let alone the minorities).

    The extremist element in Hindustan we were told is violent and cunning ! We were told lies.

    The dream shown to our elders before partition would turn out to be a broken, intolerant, violent and dysfunctional state. That dream is now a nightmare.

    This nation is now hostage to madrasaas, mullahs and military.

    I cried today at the mayhem throughout Pakistan on the Ishq-e-Rasool day. We have become a society of zealot madmen. The destruction on the tv screens is reminiscent of some of the worst violence in warn torn sub-saharan states in Africa.

    I have lost all hope for the first time ! This nation is doomed !

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  • Bill Maher (LAX)
    Sep 22, 2012 - 8:51AM

    If we have to declare a “day of love for the Prophet(pbuh)” does that mean other days we don’t love him?
    ..Peace

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  • suraj
    Sep 22, 2012 - 9:02AM

    Expression of Love, violently..

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  • suraj
    Sep 22, 2012 - 9:04AM

    @Moise:
    Because, violent protests out numbered them..

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  • Indian Wisdom
    Sep 22, 2012 - 9:22AM

    People’s Love for the prophet was on display throughout the Day!!!
    Amazing way of expression of Love for the prophet who preached only peace…..

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  • Butt
    Sep 22, 2012 - 9:25AM

    This is Pakistan’s ways of showing the world how peaceful they are. Losers!Recommend

  • Sindhi_Sufi
    Sep 22, 2012 - 9:51AM

    This will be counted as one of the black days of our history, how in the sacred name of religion, innocent Muslims lost their lives, public property was destroyed and chaos encircled Pakistan. This is not at all message of Islam, this is message of extremists who want to drag Pakistan to stone age. There is no over night cause of this ultimate chaos and break down, if we dig in history, we learn that when in1949 Objectives Resolution was passed that for the first time declared the establishment’s desire to run Pakistan on Islamic principles and laws, at that time ex-president of Sindh Muslim league and famous Sindhi scholar and nationalist, GM Syed, warned that use of religion in state affairs will not only make Pakistan a dangerous place but it may also harm to the whole world. How true he was today? Wish Establishment must have listened to such people at the inception of Pakistan.

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  • Yusuf
    Sep 22, 2012 - 1:47PM

    There arte no functional playground for Urban Youth in Karachi. Youth affair ministry not tune to current demands and being run by aged Bureaucrats. Youth coming home from diaplaplidated school rooms to no electricity in homes. Poor teaching staff provide poor guidance. Both primary and college education highly expensive for all classes of society in Pakistan. Career guidance and career oriented institute almost negligiblle for Urban Youth, thus majorty of urban youth take up either business studies or social science. Frusturated Youth comes out on street to pelt stone, burning banks, looting, and grabbing what comes their during riots. Seriously, the age limit for youth affair bureaucrats Must not be beyond Forty. Frustrations in Urban Youth reaching highest level therefore protests serve to Vent out Aggression.

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  • Sep 23, 2012 - 7:13AM

    @suraj:
    TV told you that?

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