KARACHI - Pakistan is no exception when it comes to the violent reaction witnessed in the Muslim countries world over the blasphemous anti-Islam film posted on the YouTube by an American who is currently being investigated in Los Angeles, California.
Ever since the offensive video has been released, violent protests are the order of the day in many of the world’s 57 Muslim countries, where enraged demonstrators are targeting US embassies and consulates. The violence has so far claimed several lives, including that of US Ambassador to Libya J Christopher Stevens. Needless to mention the damages being inflicted on US properties, while Washington tries to control public anger by condemning the outrageous movie and its violent aftermath. On another day of violent protests in Karachi, law enforcement agencies kept struggling to stop the protesting marchers from various political and religious parties who were trying to march on the US consulate located in the Sultanabad area. The protestors had tried to storm the US consulate on Sunday too. One man died while 57 others, including 47 policemen, were injured in clashes between police and protestors.
On Monday afternoon, at least 50 protestors of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) were arrested near the Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) building while they tried to break police cordon and reach the US Consulate. The protestors burnt tires and shouted anti-US slogans. The riot police used batons and tear gas to disperse the protestors. Elsewhere, hundreds of people, including activists of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), gathered in front of Mustafa Masjid at Jackson Market under the banner of the Islah-e-Muashara Committee (IMC). However, a clash with the police was averted when the protestors decided to postpone their rally. The enraged protesters, holding batons, banners and placards, peacefully dispersed when one of their leaders, Haji Gul Muhammad Afridi asked them to.
The rallies and the police blockades put in place by the Sindh government made the city witness one of the worst traffic jams, as law enforcers had blocked all the roads leading to the US consulate since morning. The gridlock badly affected business life in the city, particularly on MAJinnah Bridge, as commuters and transporters were seen stranded in enormous traffic. Dozens of trailers were seen stuck up on the bridge, further impeding the flow of general traffic.
The truck drivers told Pakistan Today that the police had put them on halt soon after they left Karachi Port to unload their cargo at TPX Yard. “We are here for last three hours. They say the roads would open by 6pm,” said Muhammad Rafique, a truck driver bound to stay in his vehicle for hours on a hot and humid day. Concerned for his daily wage of Rs 3,000, the driver said that after unloading his current cargo, he would reload for Lahore. However, he was doubtful if would he be able to do it due to traffic jam. Another truck driver, Kamran Ali, who had some idea about the reason for blockade, said that he was ready to sacrifice his time and money to fight the infidels who had insulted the Holy Prophet (PBUH). “They don’t know what it means to us. We cannot tolerate blasphemy against our prophet,” he said. Azmat Chaudhry, a police officer supervising the riot police on the bridge, said he would mobilize his force as per the rally’s behavior.
The law and order situation in the city also had a visible effect on trading in Karachi Stock Exchange, where the 100-point index lost 51 points with volumes dipping to 97 million against Friday’s 132 million. “Concerns for… security unrest in the city played a catalyst role in the bearish activity at KSE,” said Ashen Mehanti, an equity expert and director at Arif Habib Securities.
IJT activists march to US consulate
Thousands of activists of Islami Jamiat Talba (IJT) protested against an anti-Islam video, produced in the United States, in front of the US consulate in the city while police opened aerial firing and used tear shells to disperse the demonstrators.
Dozens of activists of IJT were arrested by police while several were injured in the clashes with security forces.
On Saturday morning, police reacted on the demonstration call of IJT and raided at hostels of different colleges, arrested over 50 students. Police had blocked all the ways towards US consulate with the help of containers and heavy vehicles.
The protesters started their rally near the Regent Plaza, holding placards consisting of anti-USA slogans. They were demanding the expulsion of the US ambassador and calling for a boycott of all the American goods and services. While heavy contingent of police was deployed on the protesters’ route, police had set up barricades in front of the Sheraton Hotel.
Police tried to stop the rally of IJT and hundreds of teargas shells were thrown to disperse the crowd but the IJT protesters kept walking towards US consulate. Protesters gathered at Sultanabad Road, a nearby area from the US Consulate, and entered the streets in the residential area.
Supporting the rally, residents of the area provided water and edibles to the protesters. The residents also gave them salt to reduce the effects of teargas. The protesters dampened handkerchiefs and covered their mouths with it to avoid the teargas.
Police also carried out heavy aerial firing but failed in dispersing them. It then used water cannons which injured more than a dozen activists of IJT. The activists also hurled stones at the police in retaliation and smashed the windshields of police vehicles.
The police had successfully apprehended some of activists of IJT; however, the agitators were able to escape from police’s custody and continued their rally.
The protesters then were able to break police’s blockage on the way to US consulate. They even offered prayer on the road, in groups, turn by turn. More than two dozen activists of IJT got injuries in clashes with police and were shifted to Jinnah Hospital. A cameraman from a private news channel was also injured.
When the police started using heavy shelling in the residential area, the residents of the Sultanabad area turned violent and joined the protesters in the evening. The police then entered the residential area in an attempt to arrest the agitating residents and the IJT activists. The protesters responded to the police raids in the residential area and burnt tires. They also broke street lights on the road to US consulate.
Police arrested more than 100 activists of IJT and shifted them to lockups of different police stations. In response to arrests of activists, hundreds of IJT activists gathered in front of Karachi press club and did a sit-in protest and then again participated in the protest at M T Khan Road. IJT leader Waqas Azmi said the United Nations should make a law against disrespecting the Holy Prophet (PBUH), and added, the US should officially ban the anti-Islam film and get it removed from the US-based social media sites.
Waqas also demanded the urgent release of their activists; otherwise, “a strong protest will be planned for the next day”. On the other hand, the protesters continued their protest. They had brought down 10 electricity poles and blocked the M T Road.
Rangers deployed at US Consulate, hotels
The Sind government on Monday beefed up security in the city by deploying Rangers at the US Consulate, 5-star hotels and other important places after a violent protest in which several vehicles including police vans, motorcycles, banks and CNG stations were set ablaze on Sunday night. The violence erupted after a teenager was killed and over a dozen others sustained serious injuries in firing on a rally taken out by Wahdatul Muslmeen and ISO from Numaish Chowrangi, M A Jinnah Road to protest against a profane anti-Islam film. As the rally had reached near Native Jetty Bridge on its way to the US Consulate located at Mai Kolachi Road by the evening, the police tried to stop it using water cannons. The police also fired tear gas shells and resorted to aerial firing to disperse the participants of rally. Firing incidents were also reported in other parts of the city including Clifton, Moosa Lane Lyari, Bheempura and Abul Hasan Esphani Road. A man was killed in a firing incident in Moosa Lane and another at Clifton while another man was injured in Bheempura. The Majlis Wahdatul Muslmeen and ISO have announced 3-day protest against firing and killing of a boy.