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‘Fear and loathing’ in Islamabad


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A riot policeman (L) backs off from demonstrators attempting to reach the US embassy during a protest against an anti-Islam film, Islamabad, Sept 20, 2012. — Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD, Sept 20: As military helicopters started flying over residential areas in Islamabad and residents started receiving smses not to leave their homes, ‘fear and loathing’ — to borrow a term from the cult American journalist, Hunter S. Thompson   — gripped the residents of Islamabad.

The three most valid questions on everyone’s lips were: Who were these protestors? How did the protestors manage to get into the city? And then what really happened?

According to a Islamabad police officer, who didn’t want to be named, the first batch of students that came in the afternoon were students of H8, H9 colleges, joined by local public school students. The students started assembling in Aabpara at around 2:00pm and within minutes their numbers grew in the hundreds.

Later they marched towards Khayaban-e-Suhrawardy reaching Diplomatic Enclave and were intercepted in front of Ataturk Avenue-5 where a contingent of the police, ARU and ATS were deployed in front of the containers. However, the protestors, whose numbers were rising sharply, pushed the law enforcement personnel back to the second line of defence in front of Serena Hotel.

They were basically all students from Islamabad and the police were ‘initially’ able to keep them at a distance.

Mohammad Akbar, a second year student, told Dawn that “We have gathered here to stage a protest against the Anti-Muslim Film and lodge our complaint against its maker with the US embassy.

What added fuel to fire was the second batch of protestors, which according to a source in Islamabad police came from Rawalpindi. “They were in the thousands…” said a source, “and once they joined the protestors in Islamabad, they became lethal.”

The march from Rawalpindi was much more organised as religious parties and the trader community joined hands. Responding to a strike call issued by the All Pakistan Anjuman Tajran and religious parties, Rawalpindi’s businessmen kept their shutters down and public transporters stopped their wheels, observing a complete strike on Thursday after 2:00 pm.

Local religious parties, traders and public transporters had called a joint strike to protest the anti-Islam film.

Talking to Dawn, Transport Association Rawalpindi-Islamabad President Malik Sultan Awan said that more than 30,000 public transport vehicles including coaster, Hiaces and mini-buses came to a halt as to record the protests against the movie.

Traders Association President Chaudhry Imran told Dawn that the basic aim of the protest rally was to record their protest and give the message to those who committed “blasphemous act” that Muslims would not tolerate such action in future.

The Markazi Anjuman-e-Tajraan rally joined the madaris students at Chandani Chowk and managed to reached in Islamabad.

At Faizabad, the protesters brunt effigies of US President and US flags.

But then beyond Faizabad, why weren’t they stopped from entering Islamabad?

The security should have been full proof — at least that is the perception that was created a day before when the capital police placed 35 containers from different parts, including Tarnol and Sihala and put them at different roads leading towards the red zone.

But the police as well as the federal government is only interested in blaming Punjab for the mayhem. “The protestors should have been checked or controlled by Rawalpindi police but instead they were facilitated…That is the unfortunate part,” an Islamabad police source said.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik had called in the army for the security of Diplomatic Enclave.

A company comprising of 100 military personnel under supervision of a major of 111 Brigade was deployed at the Diplomatic Enclave.

Once the protestors reached the red zone in Islamabad “It was a fight to the finish between the Islamabad police — facilitated by the Rangers — and the protestors.”

At one stage a police contingent was trapped and they were retaliating with tear gas and batons, but the protestors attacked them from Aabpara and the Convention Centre side.

The policemen were pushed back from three different gaps at both ends of the road and the road divider, from where the protestors also crossed the first line of defence.

As a result the police restored to baton charge and massive shelling of tear gas which provoked the protestors and they started pelting stones. Besides, there were also physical scuffles.

“If we hadn’t put up a fight,” says a police officer almost out of breath, “the protestors would have burnt down the Diplomatic Enclave.”

The police toll has been heavy, total number of police injured: thirty eight, out of which three are Station House Masters (SHO’s).

The protestors also burnt three kiosks of the Rangers and police along with telephone boxes installed along roadsides.

The capital police does claim that the Inspector General Police (IGP) Bani Amin Khan and DC Amir Ahmed Ali were present at the Convention Centre throughout the protest and that they, with the help of some religious scholars, succeeded in diverting the mob towards Aabpara Chowk around 4:00pm.

The senior police officers reached a compromise with religious scholars that the protestors taken as prisoners would be released.

Around 6:30 pm protestors attempted from different sides to make a comeback but failed.

Regarding the role of Rawalpindi police, Regional Police Officer Capt (retired) Mohammad Zubari and City Police Officer Azhar Hameed Khokhar were not available for their comments.

Comments (31) Closed

I Love Prophet Mohammed PBUH Sep 22, 2012 02:18pm
Basic problem is lack of education and awareness to our political standing. People who do not even have the fulfillment of their basic need what would they do? And we are to blame ourselves also because if we stand against abuses as child labor we could do our bit and educate these people to not to become savages. When Hazrat Ali a.s was martyred he advised right before his last breath to his men not to protest violently on his death and damage other people's property. This is what Islam teaches us.
Salman Sep 21, 2012 08:53pm
You think our rules care anymore about this looting. There moneys are safe in Swiss accounts, and they don't give a damn'. I agree the only people involved in riots and burning, are the one who have lots of free time on them, and nothing else to do or they are doing this for the sake of their stomach, and would destory for a sake of few pennys. We need to understand that by creating this environment of choas, the only one to beneifit is our rules both PPP and PML-N, and the west power, as this is create more debt loan for the country. They want this to create uncertainity which could lead to an excuse for Emergency in the country, and that would result is delay in election. Its a win-win situation for the corrupt polictical parties, We are our, own worst enemeis. We don't need any foreign elements to destory us. We have destroyed ourseleves.
ahmad Sep 21, 2012 08:59am
No first of all the society is mature and evolved .but when the united states takes these things lightly.This is what it happens when you insult and try to humiliate a religion ..this is not a freedom of speech this an abuse of freedom of speech ,which should not be tolerated regardless of what you believe in..And it is not the first time this has happened...
saad Sep 21, 2012 07:25pm
people are already so much frustrated from this corrupt system ,this was a revenge of poor people from society and muslims from their rulers who are doing no effective thing against this disrespect...
ROHIT PANDEY Sep 21, 2012 07:59am
A society which has a long way to go before it can be called "mature and evolved"-that is how the whole thing should be seen?
Krish Chennai Sep 21, 2012 02:28pm
Maybe these misguided Pakistanis should take a leaf out of a Muslim-majority country like Malaysia, where the group that took offence simply took a letter signed by all those aggrieved, and handed it over to the US embassy official. That would be the way to go about it. Destroying and burning private and public property in one's own country certainly does not show the people indulging in it, in a favourable light. Probably it shows a lack of faith in their own religion. My sympathies with the police guys who had a real tough job on their hands.
Arif Sep 21, 2012 06:04pm
If the gov't of Pakistan has provided the jobs to jobless person then there would be no protest to begin with, because all protestor would be working...Shame on illiterate people who don't understand the side effects of the freedom of speech.
chunchu Sep 21, 2012 02:14pm
if you let the mullahas run the show you are only half step away from doom
sihaque Sep 21, 2012 11:18am
Islamabad is Pakistan's capital city. People should have a right to protest there. I find the whole article about blocking access, somewhat unseemly.
Zeeshan Sep 21, 2012 03:08pm
Yusuf, you said a very smart thing, which unfortunately ignorant public majority of Pakistan won't understand. They just need an excuse to cause disorder.
Unconcerned netizen Sep 21, 2012 03:46pm
But how does violence in PAkistan help highlight abuse of freedom of speech? Only Pakistanis are affected by such senseless violence and destruction of property.....
Ajaya K Dutt Sep 21, 2012 09:19pm
You should see films making fun of Christ. You should also see a Muslim lady breaking Ganesh Idols in Youtube. May be I should go and kill few Muslims. Naaw. I am a human being and I value that the most.
Zeeshan Sep 21, 2012 03:12pm
Agree. Actually these are a selected few people who just need an excuse to cause disorder in the society. If they were true Muslims, they would have stayed home and prayed to Allah to take care of the free speech abusers in the USA and other countries.
roxana Sep 21, 2012 07:38pm
how many infedils were killed when the prophet returned to Macca ? we are idiots living in a eutopia created by nostalgia for times gone by when muslims ruled most of the civilized world .....throught education and knowledge ,not through arrgogance, illetrecy and hypocrasy.Our rulers and the rest of the ruling elite is corrupt, immoral and we ourselves do many things that are against the teachings of the prophet everyday!.....good job muslims.
srizki Sep 22, 2012 01:39pm
Those who created this movie, wanted exactly what is happening in Muslim countries, they are successful. We are dancing to their tune.
Bhushan Patil Sep 22, 2012 11:39am
u r absolutely right Mr. Krish.
Mo Sep 21, 2012 09:42pm
Yes, once we have burned everything, our whole infrastructure then the world will be really scared of us and then nobody will dare to say anything against our religion. Wow, what a plan Muslims have.
Javed Qamer Sep 21, 2012 04:03pm
To register protest you burn your shops, cinema halls and cities. Where does it end. Other countries are making movies about our prophet. Are we going to keep on burning and rioting till nothing is left of Pakistan. Government has to control the religious fanatics. They are illiterate and looking for trouble.
Shehla Sep 21, 2012 01:52pm
Yes they have a right to protest but NOT to burn and you really think they would have stood peacefully and not pillaged the diplomatic enclave why do we disrespect our religion by behaving like thugs and murderers.
Zeeshan Sep 21, 2012 03:06pm
Protest is fine as long people don't destroy their own city.
does not matter Sep 21, 2012 01:48pm
Do you even have a proof that the movie was made or produced by US government or US government has any role in it? An individual, that too an Egyptian christian makes a movie and put it on you tube and all the maniacs from Islamic countries starts protesting in front of US consulate.
A Mahmood Sep 21, 2012 06:44pm
and when the right to protest turns deadly??? then what??? if they were bent of setting the enclave on fire, then police had all the right to prevent it from happening. It is their own country they are looting and burning. Doesn't make sense, nor does it register a valid protest.
Ahmed Sep 22, 2012 07:06am
this was not a protest against the movie, this was a protest against our own hypocracy. one knows who is the other hypocrate.
Saad Sep 21, 2012 10:17am
it would seem like it, unfortunately
yusuf Khan Sep 21, 2012 09:46am
I don't understand why this day was kept as holiday by the Govt. All are acting overjealously including the Govt to show the world that they are more Muslims. Why do you give such films any importance. You are increasing market value of a nonsense material. I think it would have been sufficient to ban such movie which hurts sentiments and ignore it. When you incite crowds, only self destruction in the form of lives and properties will result.
Salman Sep 21, 2012 01:12pm
Destorying and damaging one's own property is total foolishness. After all this is our own tax money , and burning Pakistan is destroying ourselves' and that is what some elements in the west want , to potray Muslims as barbaric and iliterate. We ourselves are our worst enemies. Prophet Mohammad pbuh taught patients and forgiveness. Is that how we our potrarying ourselves? By burning Pakistan we r damaging our own image and also destory our own home. The same could have been done peacefully and it would have carried more weight in the west. We r destorying our own civil-society. I pray that Allah gives us guidance on Sirat-ul-mustakeen
Tariq Ahmed Sep 21, 2012 03:14pm
When will our people realize that you should not burn your country down because some ignorant makes a trailer for a non existant movie half way around the world. The Muslims in the US are safe and have demonstrated without damaging public property. I feel the people in Pakistan were instogated by some anti Pakistan groups.
ROHIT PANDEY Sep 22, 2012 02:46am
Free speech is actually a market place for fresh new ideas,innovations and course corrections-be it politics economics governance or law. Ideas stand or fall upon their inherent strength or lack of it- much like a stock crashing in price or rising depending upon it's fundamental financial strength. Now,perhaps Pakistanis should be given small tidbits of information about modern governance in simple little booklets in simple understandable Urdu? Maybe it is time for simple lessons in Civics for the entire society?
Reddy sahib Sep 21, 2012 01:58pm
now France will come out with more material against the prophet nd then Germany and then maybe australia and then other countries ,then what happens, are the muslims going to burn their towns and cities forever,
Zeeshan Sep 21, 2012 03:10pm
Ok, but is the solution to destroy your own country? Did sahaba of holy prophet (pbuh) even did any protests or killings?
Vito Zuberito Sep 21, 2012 09:56pm
Life is so cheap in Pakistan!!