ISLAMABAD: Thousands of charged demonstrators attempting to reach the France embassy to protest the printing of blasphemous images depicting Holy Prophet (PBUH) clashed with Islamabad police on Friday, forcing security personnel to fire tear gas and beat protestors with batons.
Tens of thousands of Muslims, from Pakistan to Lebanon to the Palestinian territories, poured out of prayer services to join anti-France protests on the eve of Eid Miladun Nabi, as President Emmanuel Macron vow to protect the right to caricature the Holy Prophet (PBUH) continues to roil the Muslim world.
Around 3,000 protesters gathered in Islamabad, about half a kilometre from the fortified Diplomatic Enclave where the French embassy is, according to a Reuters witness. The demonstrators demanded the government expel the French ambassador, sever ties with France and called for the boycott of French products.
The rally turned violent and broke through security blockades, prompting riot police to launch tear gas shells and rubber bullets. Roads leading to Red Zone were blocked using shipping containers and barbed wire and were guarded by riot police, but protesters managed to climb over the blockades, prompting police to fire rounds of tear gas.
Tense Situation around French Embassy in Islamabad as thousands of people are clashing with Police to [email protected] French Embassy
France has placed it’s Embassy on Alert in Islamabad, Pakistan pic.twitter.com/ymLpEaiuYg
— Megh Updates 🚨 (@MeghUpdates) October 30, 2020
“We needed to fire tear gas shells when the protesters tried to violate their agreement,” a police official said, referring to an agreement with protest leaders that they would not progress beyond a certain point.
In response, the protesters hurled stones at police vehicles and vandalised a police post. They also set fire to plants in a forest opposite the Serena Hotel.
The crowd also hanged an effigy of President Macron from Islamabad Expressway overpass after pounding it furiously with their shoes, Arab News said.
In Lahore, thousands of worshippers celebrating the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), took to the streets, chanting anti-France slogans, raising banners and clogging major roads en route to Data Darbar.
In Multan, thousands more burned an effigy of President Macron.
The protests come amid rising tensions between France and Muslim-majority nations, which flared up earlier this month when a young man beheaded a French schoolteacher who had shown blasphemous caricatures in class.
Those images, republished by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to mark the opening of the trial for the deadly 2015 attack against the publication, have stirred the ire of Muslims across the world.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan said in a televised speech to a gathering in Islamabad that “a small group” is running a campaign to malign Islam by provoking Muslim sentiments.
“When you make cartoons, it is not freedom of speech, it is deliberately hurting the sentiments of 1.3 billion Muslims,” he said.