ISLAMABAD - Thousands of people protesting against the blasphemous anti-Islam movie stormed the federal capital on Thursday and tried to force their entry into the Diplomatic Enclave to march on the US embassy, forcing the government to call in the military to secure foreign missions in the area.
Armed with wooden clubs and iron rods, almost 20,000 protesters, including a large number of students, clashed with riot police as they attempted to force their way into the diplomatic enclave to attack the US embassy.
Police initially resorted to a light baton charge and tear gas shelling outside the Serena Hotel to stop the protesters, but the crowd got agitated and a bloody clash ensued. In retaliation, angry protesters attacked the security teams with stones and sticks. Police sources said around 900 officials of the Islamabad police backed by around 200 officials of the Punjab Police and Rangers had been deployed to control the protests.
But once the 1,100 cops failed to contain the crowd otherwise, they started firing rubber bullets indiscriminately and resorted to heavy tear gas shelling on the protesters, but in vain.
Gauging the developments and seeing the protesters inching towards the Diplomatic Enclave, the government was eventually forced to call in army troops to secure the enclave, which houses the US embassy besides several other foreign missions. In the almost five-hour-long clashes, over 50 police officials, including Aabpara SHO Jamshed Ahmed Khan and Kohsar SHO Khalid Masood, received injuries, while more than a dozen protesters were also left wounded. The injured were shifted to Poly Clinic and Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences. Hospital sources said Constable Asif Khan had been seriously injured, as he had broken his leg and also received injuries on his back.
Police also managed to nab dozens of protesters. Earlier in the day, the Islamabad administration had sealed the Constitution Avenue from Radio Pakistan Chowk to the Diplomatic Enclave, while police had also blocked several other roads by placing containers at various points. Three containers were placed on the Islamabad Highway near Faizabad, but protesters roiling for vengeance forcefully set the containers aside and managed to reach Serena Hotel. The protesters also burnt down three police pickets, several police motorcycles and damaged many signboards on Khayaban-e-Suharwardi and Islamabad Highway. A telephone pole was burnt down right outside Serene Hotel, while demonstrators also damaged several street lights and glasses of a few cars. The Khayaban-e-Suharwardi and Kashmir Highway near Serene Hotel was turned into a battlefield for four hours, where angry protesters kept shouting anti-US slogans and demanded lynching of those responsible for producing the blasphemous film.
Atif Ali, a protesting student of Quaid-e-Azam University said, “I’m ready to sacrifice my life and take others’ lives for the dignity and honor of Holy Prophet (PBUH).” “I’m here to register my protest against the US government for providing shelter to those who made the movie.” Later, a delegation of ulema led by Maulana Zahoor Alvi and Nazir Farooqi held talks with the Islamabad chief commissioner and IGP. The IGP asked the clerics to help end the protests, but the clerics demanded the release of all arrested people. Once that was done, Alvi requested the protesters to call off the rally and they subsequently obliged.