SHABQADAR/ PESHAWAR/ KP: Several bounties were announced on the staff of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Friday as protests against its publication of sacrilegious cartoons continued across the province.
Religious parties Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) announced a bounty of Rs100 million on the people who made and published the caricatures.
Hundreds of activists led by JI’s Abdul Mastan, JUI-F’s Amir Hidayatul Haq and ASWJ leaders protested against the cartoons on Friday in Shabqadar and adopted a declaration urging people to boycott French products.
Addressing the protest, Mastan demanded that the federal government expel the French ambassador from Pakistan, while JUI-F’s Maulana Wakeel Ahmad said Pakistan should call a session of the United Nations and rally for a ban on publications insulting religion and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
A similar demonstration was also held in Tangi tehsil at Farooque Azam Square where JUI-F MNA Maulana Gohar Shah, JUI-F Charsadda Amir Hashim Khan, JI Charsadda Amir Misbahullah along with other leaders demanded action against the controversial cartoonists and urged the Islamic world to unite against such freedom of speech.
Led by JUI-F MNA Maulana Muhammad Qasim, scores of JUI-F activists took to the streets and demanded action against the magazine. Malakand Road remained blocked for several hours due to the protest.
Mardan Anjamum Tajiran (traders association) announced a bounty of Rs10 million on the magazine staff and urged the UN to make a law against blasphemy.
Hundreds of activists of JI, JUI-F and JUI-S took out a protest rally from Khyber Bazaar to Qissa Khwani Bazaar in the provincial capital following Friday prayers. JI’s Hakeem Abdul Wahid, JUI-F K-P Amir Maulana Gul Naseeb, JUI-S Central Deputy Secretary Maulana Hamidul Haq, prayer leader of Qasim Ali Khan Mosque, Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai, and other religious leaders led the protest. Demonstrators chanted slogans against the French magazine and government and demanded leaders of Muslim countries suspend relations with France. Maulana Naseer said European countries have set punishments for insulating the Pope and Queen Elizabeth but remain silent on the issue of blasphemy against the Holy Prophet (pbuh). Mufti Popalzai appealed to Muslim countries to lodge a writ petition with the International Court of Justice against the magazine staff. Activists of the recently outlawed organisation, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, also protested outside the Peshawar Press Club.
Traders of Mansehra district observed a complete shutter-down strike against the publications.
On the call of Anjuman Tajran (traders association), shops, shopping malls and markets remained closed throughout the day, while rallies were taken out by different political parties and traders’ bodies.
All protest processions converged at Khatm-e-Naboovat Chowk where leaders of JUI-F, JUI-S, ASWJ, PML-N, PPP and PTI addressed the participants and condemned the caricatures.
Similar rallies were taken out in Kohistan, Battagram, Abbottabad and Haripur. Demonstrators demanded diplomatic ties with France be severed until legal action is taken against Charlie Hebdo and an official apology is issued.
The residents of Shahpur took to the streets after Friday prayers under the leadership of Maulana Imdadullah and Maulana Zahiruddin and chanted slogans against the French government. The local bazaar remained closed due to the protest.
A joint protest was held in Chitral by JUI-F and JI at PIA Chowk after Friday prayers. Led by JI Chitral chief Haji Maghfirat Shah, JUI-F leader Maulana Abdur Rehman and others, the protesters demanded a change in Pakistan’s relations with France. The religious leaders said France should respect all religions and avoid such publications.
JI, JUI-F, PPP and ANP leaders also led a protest in Mian Mandi and Ekka Ghund areas of Mohmand Agency, urging the government to call the French ambassador and register its protest over the caricatures.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th, 2015.