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PAKISTAN: Widespread protests against outrage

Students in Peshawar hold demonstrations, attack shops and businesses

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

By Zulfiqar Ali

Peshawar --- Protest demonstration against publication of sacrilegious caricatures in European newspapers continued on Tuesday and processions were taken out in Peshawar and other parts of the province.

Students in Bannu held a demonstration and attacked shops and business centres in the main city. Hundreds of them wielding sticks and shouting slogans against US and western countries took out rally from the Government Degree College Bannu and marched through the streets.

On the call of the provincial government small and big rallies were taken out in the city which assembled at Soekarno Square in Khyber Bazaar.

The main rally was organised by the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), Jamatu Dwa and students of seminaries which started from the square and culminated at Kissa Khwani Bazaar. Chief Minister Akram Khan Durrani, his cabinet members, MPAs and City District Nazim Haji Ghulam Ali led the marchers, who shouted slogans against America and West.

Protesters demanded of the government to end ties with those countries where newspapers published blasphemous caricatures.

Speaking on the occasion Chief Minister Akram Khan Durrani demanded of the Danish government to arrest and try the editors responsible for publishing the objectionable material.

"They not only hurt feelings and sentiments of the Muslims, but also caused unrest across the world," he observed.

"These people have done an unpardonable act and they should be punished in accordance with the international law", Mr Durrani said, demanding Danish government to produce the responsible persons before the International Court of Justice.

He urged the people to remain peaceful and exercise restrain. He called for observing protest across the province on next Friday.

"This is your fundamental right to protest against publication of objectionable material, but please remain peaceful and do not attack worship places of other communities", he said.

Meanwhile, the Bishop of Peshawar Munawar Rumalshah expressed concern over the situation caused by publication of cartoon.

In a statement issued here on Tuesday, the Bishop said: "We wish to condemn this ignominious act. We want to offer our support and sympathy and prayers to our Muslim brothers not only in the NWFP, but also across Pakistan and indeed the whole world".

Senator Maulana Sameeul Haq, head of his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam has also appealed to the people to observe strike, says a press release.

PPI adds: For the first time, employees of civil secretariat and revenue department also took part in the demonstration.

NWFP Chief Minister Mohammad Akram Durrani urged masses to boycott European products till the Europe apologised Muslims for blasphemous caricatures in European press.

Thousands of people responded "Labaik, Labaik" when he asked the federal government to sever its diplomatic relations with European countries.

"We want the International Court of Justice to punish those responsible for publication of the caricatures because Muslims could not tolerate such blasphemy," Chief Minister said adding: "If they failed to punish the blasphemer it would mean that Europe is supporting them."

"Muslims honour all holly books therefore west should respect Islam and religious believes of Muslims" a banner said.

Some activist of Jamatu Dawa also joined the procession led by Akram Durrani as well as district Nibe Amir of JI Hakeem Abdul Waheed.

During the procession an activist of Shabab-i-Mili torched Danish flag.

Our correspondent in Swabi adds:

Students of the Government Commerce College staged a protest demonstration and called upon all the Muslim countries to boycott products of countries whose newspapers had published the cartoons.

The speakers alleged that the publication of the cartoons was part of a conspiracy of the European states against the Muslim community.

They lamented that the Muslims had failed to take joint action against the states and publishers involved in the incident.

The protesters blocked the Swabi-Topi road for about 30 minutes and chanted slogans against European leaders and the country’s rulers.

They demanded that Pakistan should withdraw its diplomats from the countries in which the cartoons were published.