Extremists in the garb of protesters
Friday was declared the Day of Love for Prophet (pbuh) to convey that Muslims have a deep emotional attachment to him which the world must not ignore. The looting, arson and killings that took place were entirely repugnant to the image of the Prophet as benevolence incarnate known for forgiving those who had shown disrespect to his person and committed atrocities on Muslims. Massive but peaceful rallies would have forcefully conveyed the resentment against the notorious film. What happened was the opposite. At least 23 people lost their lives as a result of violence. In all seven banks, nine cinema houses, one armoured vehicle, and four police mobiles were torched. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa a church and the premises of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry were set on fire. Condemning the violence a PML-N leader rightly observed that the incidents would provide a handle to those who accuse Islam of promoting extremism.
The day was obviously hijacked by the extremist elements. Masked men were in the forefront of the attacks at several places. Banned outfits joined the protests carrying their distinctive flags. Religious parties are on the defensive now with Fazlur Rehman accusing “outsiders” being responsible for the mayhem. Why didn’t these parties stop the extremists from using the occasion to pursue their agenda of violence?
The government is to be blamed for failure to evolve a policy to deal with situations of the sort other than barricading Islamabad and suspending mobile phone services. After protests against the notorious film began in the Middle East, it had enough time to provide the people direction and leadership. It should have convinced them that there was no need for protests and that it was taking action in the international fora, and will educate the west about why the film hurt Muslims. Even the opposition parties have done nothing to discourage extremism in their ranks. That the protests became violent after the Juma prayers should persuade the ulema, some of whom have condemned the violence, not to allow irresponsible speeches from the pulpit.
The police and law enforcement agencies have been trained to control the milder type of slogan chanting protestors with batons and tear gas shells. What they encountered this time were motivated extremists attacking with firearms while using common protestors as human shields. It goes to the credit of these agencies that they managed to secure the foreign embassies and consulates under great stress. Three police officials laid down their lives in the line of duty while scores were injured. The agencies must henceforth plan for the new situation on the ground.