KARACHI/ISLAMABAD/PESHAWAR: Friday saw widespread protests against controversial French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in several cities across the country. While demonstrations in most cities remained relatively peaceful, at least three people — including a photographer for a French news agency — were injured in clashes between protesters and police outside the French consulate in Karachi.
The Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and a host of other religious parties had called for countrywide protests against the publication of the caricatures. The magazine had printed the offensive content in defiance, following a deadly attack on their Paris offices, which left nearly a dozen people dead.
On Friday, as protesters marched on the French consulate in Karachi, AFP photographer Asif Hassan was shot in the chest, while a policeman and a local TV cameraman were also injured.
“The bullet struck his lung, and passed through his chest. He is out of immediate danger and he has spoken to his colleagues,” Jinnah hospital spokesperson Dr Seemi Jamali said referring to Mr Hassan.
DIG Abdul Khaliq Sheikh told AFP, “When the police tried to stop [protesters], they started firing,” adding that the police responded with tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protesters.
AFP quoted police as saying that Mr Hassan and the other cameraman did not appear to have been deliberately targeted, but were caught in the crossfire when protesters shot at police.
In the JI stronghold of Lahore, the main rally was staged on Multan Road, near the party’s headquarters in Mansoora.
Similar rallies were held in Gujranwala, Multan, Okara, Bahawalpur, Sialkot, Toba Tek Singh and Sheikhupura.
In Rawalpindi, dozens of rallies, led by the JI and Sunni Tehreek, were taken out. Participants chanted slogans against France and called for execution of those who committed blasphemy against the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).
Before the rally, the khateeb of Pindi’s Moti Masjid made a speech asking people to stand up to protect the dignity of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).
Islamabad also witnessed rallies against Charlie Hebdo, where the number of protesters was dwarfed by the heavy deployment of security around the areas where the demonstrations were to be held. However, demonstrators at a Jamaatud Dawa rally in sector I-8 burned French flags and declared that the west was testing Muslims’ patience.
JI leaders and local PTI MPAs led rallies against the offensive caricatures in Taxila, Wah Cantt and Hassanabdal and called on the UN and the EU to stop such caricatures from being published. In Taxila, lawyers also vowed to boycott court proceedings to display their displeasure over the sketches.
The JI, JUI-F, JuD and other groups organised several rallies and demonstrations across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In Peshawar, JuD activists burned French flags in front of Peshawar Press Club, while lawyers from across the province boycotted different courts at the call of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bar Council.
Religious parties also staged demonstrations in Timergara, Chitral, Ghalanai, Swabi, Karak, Mardan, Nowshera and Lakki Marwat.
Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2015