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Thousands in Pakistan protest 'genocide' of Rohingya Muslims

Updated September 08, 2017
Protesters shout slogans during a rally in Peshawar on Thursday against killing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. — White Star/File
Protesters shout slogans during a rally in Peshawar on Thursday against killing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. — White Star/File

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of major cities on Friday to condemn a crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, with many carrying placards that read, "Shame on Aung San Suu Kyi".

The largely peaceful rallies were spearheaded by the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), but other political parties and members of the civil society also joined in.

Political leaders, including JI chief Sirajul Haq, called for an end to the "genocide" of the Rohingya and for Pakistan to break off relations with the government in Myanmar.

The government has previously expressed "deep anguish" at the violence.

Many protesters also slammed Suu Kyi, Myanmar's de facto leader, over her silence. The Nobel Peace Prize winner has faced criticism for failing to condemn the violence, leaving her global reputation in tatters.

A senior United Nations (UN) representative told AFP on Friday that more than 1,000 people may already have been killed in the military-led crackdown, which has seen 270,000 mostly Rohingya civilians flee to Bangladesh in the last two weeks alone.

Others have died trying to flee the fighting in Rakhine state, where witnesses say entire villages have been burned since suspected Rohingya militants launched a series of coordinated attacks on August 25, prompting the crackdown.

In Karachi — which is host to one of the largest Rohingya populations outside of Myanmar — more than 2,000 people demonstrated outside the Karachi Press Club.

"If our leader gives the call, we will lay down our lives for the Myanmar Muslims," one protester, Maulana Ahmed, told AFP.

In Islamabad a similarly-sized crowd gathered at the entrance to the diplomatic enclave, inside which the Myanmar embassy is situated.

Many carried placards reading: "Why are these Muslims being killed? What is their crime?"

Security forces with protective riot gear stood nearby and containers blocked off access to the enclave, with some small scuffles.

But police appeared relaxed as the demonstrators, some armed with batons, showed no signs of trying to go further into the diplomatic area.

Demonstrators gathered outside Quetta Press Club carrying flags and banners reading "No to Burma", "No to the US" and "Stop Muslim genocides", and chanted slogans against the Burmese government.

Maulana Wali Turabi, the JUI-F Quetta chief, told flag-waving supporters that "Pakistan must break diplomatic relations with Burma."

Lawyers in Quetta boycotted the courts to condemn the violence against the Rohingyas.

"This is a human tragedy and the world must break its criminal silence," Advocate Ali Kakar, a young lawyer told DawnNews.

Protest rallies were also carried out in Peshawar and different parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa today.

A large number of protesters, including members of various political and religious parties, traders, and several other organisations staged protests at the press club to condemn the atrocities against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

The protesters were also holding banners and placards inscribed with slogans against the Burmese government.

They urged the Pakistani government to sever diplomatic relations with Myanmar government and expel its ambassador immediately.

The protesters criticised Muslim countries over their silence on the Myanmar issue.

Traders also took to the streets in Peshawar's Saddar Bazaar in protest.

They demanded that the government should break its silence and announce open support to the Muslims of Myanmar.

In Malakand district, under the aegis of United Traders Union (UTU) in the Sakhakot area, thousands of people held a demonstration demanding that Muslim countries around the world to take serious notice of the issue of the displacement and death of thousands of Rohingya Muslims.

Led by UTU President Hameedullah Khan, people holding placards and banners inscribed with different slogans took to the streets and criticised various world organisations for their silence over the violence against the Rohingya Muslims.

The rally marched through different areas of Sakhakot and converged into a big public meeting at General Bus Stop.

Speakers at the gathering called on the Muslim community and the UN to take practical steps to help stop the violence against the Rohingyas.

Religious parties, including the JUI-F, JI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek also staged demonstrations in Quetta against the Myanmar government's alleged brutalities against Rohingya Muslims.

JUI-F led demonstrations in Bisham, Puran, Chakesar and Shahpur tehsils of Shangla condemning atrocities against Rohingya Muslims. Leaders at the rallies said the protests representing unity and support for Burmese Muslims would continue.

Similar protests were staged in Bannu, Hangu, Swabi and Mardan.

Protesters carrying banners and placards in Badin urged the federal government to take up the issue of Rohingya genocide with UN, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and other world bodies to help stop unabated atrocities.

Mithi, Umerkot, Mirpurkhas and other towns of Sindh also saw protest rallies.

The Rohingya have long been subjected to discrimination in mostly Buddhist Myanmar, which regards them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship.

The death toll given to AFP by Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, is far higher than official tolls totalling 432.

The government of Myanmar has counted 400 deaths and says most were terrorists.

The latest violence began on Aug 25 after insurgent attacks on police.

The government forces retaliated with what they called “clearance operations".

UN says 146,000 have now fled Myanmar violence

The UN says some 146,000 people have fled Myanmar into Bangladesh since August 25.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Wednesday that the World Food Programme is appealing for $11.3 million to support the influx of people and those already living in camps.

The UN agency has provided food to tens of thousands of people, with Dujarric describing women and children arriving there as “hungry and malnourished.”

Dujarric also said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “is continuing his diplomatic contacts regarding the situation in Myanmar.”

The Myanmar government's top security adviser claims an insurgent group that attacked 30 police posts two weeks ago is trying to carve out a separate Muslim state from the Buddhist-majority nation, and the armed forces are using maximum restraint in their operations against them.

Myanmar's National Security Adviser Thaung Tun said at a news conference on Wednesday in the capital, Naypyitaw, that security forces are making every effort to avoid harming innocent civilians.

He was responding to accusations that the army and police fired indiscriminately on civilians and razed Muslim Rohingya villages after the attacks on the police posts in Rakhine state.