Thursday, 20 September 2012

Anti-Islam film protests: Pakistan army called in to protect diplomatic enclave

Anti-Islam film protests: Pakistan army called in to protect diplomatic enclave
Clean Media Correspondent

Islamabad, Sept 20 (CMC) The Pakistani army was drafted in to protect foreign embassies on Thursday after thousands of violent protesters clashed with police on the eve of an expected day of anti-western fury across the Islamic world.

Dozens of people were wounded during vicious street fighting after masses of students, many carrying banners of hardline religious parties, attempted to converge on the diplomatic quarter in the heart of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

The outbreak of serious violence for the first time in the capital comes amid escalating tension, with protests held on consecutive days all around the country.

On Thursday the rising threat prompted the US state department to harden its travel warning for American citizens, explicitly warning them against non-essential trips to Pakistan.

Authorities in Islamabad had been making significant preparations for what many fear will be the most violent day of protests since controversy first flared around a YouTube video called Innocence of Muslims that ridicules Islam.

In response the government declared Friday "a day of love for the prophet", a move which was welcomed by the Taliban and which risks substantially increasing the already high threat of violence on the traditional Islamic holy day.

But the crowds of young men made short work of the various measures put in place, with protesters simply pushing to one side some of the huge metal sea containers that had been positioned to seal off sensitive areas of the capital, including the enclave.

Police did manage to prevent crowds reaching the entrance to the diplomatic enclave, but that simply prompted them to fight on a nearby road, directly outside the Serena, Islamabad's grandest five-star hotel.

Teargas canisters were lobbed back at police lines and into the grounds of the Serena, prompting police to fire live rounds into the air amid some unconfirmed reports that some demonstrators had been injured by gun shots.

At one stage a group of police was surrounded on all sides by demonstrators and were pelted with stones. Protesters set fire to the few things available to them on the wide boulevards of Islamabad, including traffic cones and police checkposts.

Rehman Baig, a posgraduate student, said the mission of the crowd was to reach the US embassy, a large complex deep inside the diplomatic enclave, and demand the dismissal of the ambassador.

"The infidels want to capture Muslim lands, defame Muslims and plunder our wealth," he said. He also demanded to know why the makers of Innocence of Muslims, have not been arrested.

"If they can find and kill Osama then why can't they catch this film-maker and punish him?"

Many demonstrators carried placards, including one saying: "Obama we are all Osama", and the flags of hardline religious parties, including the banner of Jamiat-ud-Dawa, a group associated with banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

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