KARACHI: As many as 23 people, including policemen, were killed and over 200 sustained injuries in deadly clashes that flared up on Friday as thousands of protesters took to the streets across the country to denounce the sacrilegious film that has fanned Muslim anger globally.
The government had announced observing Friday as Yaum-e-Ishq-e-Rasool (SAW) (Love the Prophet Day) to lodge protest against the blasphemous movie and declared it a public holiday. However, despite the government’s call for peaceful protests, violent clashes and skirmishes with police and other law enforcing agencies took place in various cities.
All over the Muslim world, protests and demonstrations remained peaceful but in Pakistan the protesters gave vent to their anger against the movie by resorting to clashes with police, setting vehicles on fire, ransacking buildings, torching petrol pumps and damaging other public utility facilities.
The metropolis was engulfed in violence on Friday when unruly mobs, in the guise of protests against an anti-Islam film, went on an orgy of rampage, violence and arson. At the end of the day, 17 people were dead, including three police officials and activists of banned outfits. Also, 83 people were injured. Armed miscreants also torched several vehicles, including police mobiles, five cinema houses, four banks, police posts and foreign food chains.
Sources said it seemed that the miscreants who attacked the properties had come prepared. The mission apparently for some was not to protest against the anti-Islam film but to attack the government and private properties and rob them. It was chaos everywhere with the police having no clue about tackling the issue. The state resolve to take on the armed thugs was largely absent.
All hell broke loose after the Friday prayers when political and religious party rallies moved towards the Karachi Press Club and the US Consulate on the MT Khan Road. The first cases of violence occurred on the Native Jetty, M A Jinnah Road and in Sultanabad and PIDC areas where law enforcers tear gassed the protesters who were trying to move towards the US Consulate.
On the M A Jinnah Road, armed miscreants attacked the Capri, Prince, Nishat and Bambino Cinemas and torched them with kerosene oil. No law enforcers dared to stop the miscreants from torching the public property. The thugs later moved forward and attacked the Sindh Bank, robbed the money and also torched it.
Similarly, mobs in Kharadar area torched a Frontier Constabulary check-post, in Quaidabad area they torched the Gulistan Cinema and partially damaged the DC Malir Office. In Liaquatabad area, armed miscreants attacked several vehicles and also torched a truck. In the PIB Colony area, a bank, after it was robbed of cash, was burnt down. Moreover, two wine shops were torched in Zaman Town and Awami Colony police limits.
In Shah Latif area, a protest rally heading towards Sharea Faisal was tear-gassed by the police. Some people fired at the rally, injuring nine people. There were reports that Inspector Ali Hasan Sheikh was also injured in the attack. Moreover, in Quaidabad area, there were violent incidents in which two persons, including Noor Rehman, were shot dead.
Sub-Inspector Illyas of Traffic Department, also the Section Officer of Manghopir Traffic, was killed in the Manghopir area.
Police sources said a battle between the law enforcers and miscreants also occurred in Sohrab Goth and Sachal area where during the battle, Police Constable Amir Hussain of the Ayub Goth police post died while Akber Ali was shot dead in Sachal area.
Meanwhile, protesters arrived at the Governor House and attacked the police with firearms. In the melee, several people were injured while armed miscreants torched three police vans parked near the Governor House.
Later, the miscreants reached the PIDC signal where they first attacked the PIDC Traffic Section, destroyed all the record there and torched the post. The miscreants later marched towards the Sheraton Hotel where they attacked the Afghan Carpet and a medical store and looted all the carpets and medicines from the shops.
Despite the presence of law enforcers, miscreants attacked the National Bank of Pakistan and Muslim Commercial Banks near the PIDC, robbed cash from the ATM machines, computers and other valuables. They also attacked the KFC at the PIDC, robbed the cash there and torched the food chain.
Police struggled to quell the explosion of arson and looting. The sense of authority seemed to have vanished while the area resembled a war zone.
The pitched battles between the police and armed gangs were fought in the PIDC, Native Jetty and Sultanabad areas where miscreants used firearms upon the law enforcers. Rescue teams moved in to shift the injured to the CHK and Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC).
According to the CHK and private hospitals, the persons brought dead were Hanan, Qari Khalid, Kashif from Sultanabad area, Rashid, Naveed, Mohammad Anees and Police Constable Tufail, who was brought dead from Native Jetty area, Mohammed Samee, Saeed Akhtar, Sadaqatullah and Shakeel were brought from Mauripur and Sultanabad areas.
Doctor Seemi Jamali, Director JPMC, talking to The News, confirmed seven dead bodies at the JPMC while 83 injured were under treatment at the hospital.
Meanwhile, sources claimed had the Rangers and FC been deployed much earlier, the situation could have been salvaged to a great extent. They put the blame squarely on the government’s shoulders, saying the PPP government had announced to observe the protest day without putting together any plan of action to tackle the protesters. They said the government had little idea how deadly the situation could become. “This became clear when the ruling party’s big guns, flabbergasted at the government’s failure, diverted their guns towards the media, blaming it for violence and chaos,” they said.
They said the thugs who attacked the properties had come prepared. The mission apparently for some was not to protest against the anti-Islam film but to attack the government and private properties and rob them. The pitched battles were manifest of societal intolerance, they added. The situation had not normalised in the city till our going to the press.
Our correspondents add: In the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, different groups of protesters blocked the traffic on the main roads by burning tyres and putting hurdles. A group moved to Golra Morre, ruined the Toll Plaza and burnt it completely.
Mobs of youth gathered on the Faizabad Flyover and started damaging private and government property. During the violent procession, the mob, led by about a dozen masked miscreants, burnt two heavy containers and a truck and attacked police and media persons.
At various places in the twin cities, Islamabad Police hurled teargas shells and resorted to firing in the air. As many as 30 people, including policemen, were wounded in the clashes at different points in the twin cities. The fight between the police and angry people continued for over five hours, but a group of youth led by masked persons took complete control of the Faizabad Flyover and police were compelled to run away.
Thousands of persons later gathered in front of the Serena Hotel and hundreds of angry protesters removed all the hurdles and rushed into the Red Zone but the police intercepted them and arrested most of them.
The fight between the police and agitators also continued on the Embassy Road when the police barred demonstrators from marching towards the Red Zone from the State Bank barriers.
At the Jinnah Avenue, where rallies gathered from Rawalpindi and Islamabad, violence began when law enforcing agencies intercepted the angry people marching towards the Red Zone. The people removed heavy containers and stormed the Red Zone in front of the President House but law enforcing agencies stopped them.
A helicopter landed on the Parade Ground carrying Interior Minister Rehman Malik, chief commissioner Islamabad and commandos at 4.20pm. It stayed there for five minutes.
Police officials told The News that as many as 15 cops and about 15 civilians were wounded during the clashes. The police claimed that gun shots were fired at the police during the clashes.
The army was called in to assist the police to protect the Red Zone after the law and order situation worsened while Interior Minister Rehman Malik visited the Diplomatic Enclave and reviewed the security measures.
Hide and seek continued between the police and protesting groups of youth at different roads of Rawalpindi. The police used teargas and shot rubber bullets at mobs to disperse them. One mob torched a CNG station at Shamsabad as well as some vehicles and broke windscreens of private vehicles.
Protest demonstrations were also held in Hyderabad, Larkana, Sukkar, Badin, Daddu, Thatta and other cities of Sindh.
In Lahore, several roads around the Simla Hill turned into a battlefield as the police in riot gear pushed back tens of thousands of people trying to march towards the US Consulate reportedly to hand over a protest memorandum against the blasphemous US movie.
Police resorted to firing in the air and massive teargas shelling besides baton charge to disperse the angry crowds of youths at the Egerton Road, which remained the centre of turmoil till late in the evening. Eventually, Rangers were called in to take control of the vicinity of the US Consulate.
Dozens of protesters, including a few policemen, received injuries in fierce clashes. Nevertheless, the crowd refrained from damaging private or public property.
The angry mob pelted police with stones and threw back teargas shells at the policemen. On many occasions, they managed to break police security lines comprising large containers and razor wire fences. Some protesters snatched two teargas guns from the police and fled. The boys, armed with the police guns, were welcomed by the crowd, who took them onto their shoulders, and raised slogans against the police as well as the US.
Four to five boys managed to climb on to the roof of a few private and government office buildings situated opposite to the US Consulate, from the backyard and reached the rooftop and started throwing stones at the US Consulate building. However, a heavy contingent of the police quickly followed them and arrested them. The guards deputed outside the US Consulate also fired warning shots. The pitched battles between the police and protesters continued for over three hours on the Edgerton Road and dozens of protesters were arrested.
A mob torched a police picket, set up at a road leading to the US Consulate and plundered a shop situated near the picket. Some angry youth threw stones at a bank office, but they were reprimanded by others.
The rallies and protests began at The Mall soon after the Friday prayers as Jamaat-e-Islami and Pakistan Muslim League-N staged protest meetings at Masjid-e-Shuhada, addressed by respective local leaders, including Dr Farid Paracha, Dr Wasim Akhtar, Amirul Azeem, Pervaiz Malik, MNA, Mian Marghoob MNA, Imran Nazeer, Salman Rafiq and others.
However, these leaders left the venue before the workers clashed with the police in an attempt to proceed towards the US Consulate.
Meanwhile, workers of Jamaatud Dawah, Defence of Pakistan Council (DPC), Tehrik-e-Hurmat Rasool (THR), Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, Tahaffuz-e-Namoos-e-Risalat Mahaz and Sunni Tehrik joined the rallies.
The rallies of Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), Majlis-e-Wahdat Muslemeen (MWM), Sunni Tehrik and Jamaatud Dawah reached The Mall after the frontline of the mob had crossed over to the Governor’s House.
Islami Jamiat Talaba, Imamia Students Organisation (ISO), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and other parties also took out rallies, which culminated on the Egerton Road. The PTI rally, led by Mehmoodur Rasheed, was the last to reach there and comprised a number of women, who suffered heavy teargas shelling.
Rallies to condemn the offensive movie were also staged in Faisalabad, Multan, Bahawalpur, Okara, Sahiwal, Jhang, Bhakkar, Mianwali, T T Singh and other cities of the Punjab.
In Peshawar, six people were killed and 57 others, including a deputy superintendent of police (DSP), Banaras Khan, and 10 other cops, were wounded in violent protests. Over 100 protesters were arrested from different parts of the city for allegedly damaging the public and private properties and attacking the law-enforcers.
Wielding batons and carrying stones, the protesters torched four cinema houses and ransacked several buildings, including the offices of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Chamber of Commerce and Industries, two private banks, a restaurant, plazas and shops on the G T Road, University Road and in Peshawar Saddar. Several huge billboards were pulled down and broken.
The angry participants of the rallies damaged several vehicles when the drivers tried to move on the roads blocked by the mob. They also torched the US flags.
Protesters exchanged fire with the police on the University Road and GT Road when cops did not allow them to make way to the US Consulate General in the Cantonment area. The exchange of fire resulted in the death of six people and injuries to 57 others, including policemen and protesters.
The police recovered a three kilogramme bomb planted near Bilal Colony on the Kohat Road before a procession was due to pass through the area. The bomb disposal squad later defused the explosive material.
There were already reports about the presence of four suicide bombers, including two Afghans, in the city to target the security checkposts.
Those killed in the clashes included the driver of a private television channel’s vehicle, Mohammad Amir. His colleagues said Amir was shot at by policemen who were protecting Shama Cinema near Bacha Khan Chowk from the mob.
Trade centres all over the provincial capital remained closed as people feared violent attacks from the protesters. The owners of CNG and petrol stations had erected fences to protect their properties.
Roads leading to the US Consulate General were blocked with containers and no one was allowed to enter the area. Heavy police contingents were also deployed in the city. In the morning, the city wore a deserted look as all the markets were closed and complete wheel-jam strike was observed by the transporters associations.
At around mid-day, the activists of Shabab-i-Milli, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) and Pakistan Muslim League Youth Wing took to the streets and blocked the Grand Trunk Road.
The protesters took out processions in Nowshera, Kohat, Charsadda, Mangora, Abbottabad, Mansehra and other cities of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
Yaum-e-Ishq-e-Rasool (SAW) was also observed in Quetta and other parts of Balochistan with religious fervor and enthusiasm, while business activities and fuel stations remained shut. In fact, complete shutter down strike was observed in all parts of Balochistan on the call given by Anjuman-e-Tajiran Balochistan and endorsed by nearly all politico-religious groups.
Over three dozens protest rallies and processions were taken out by political, religious parties and representatives of civil society separately in addition demonstrations staged in different places in Quetta. Thousands of people thronged the city roads while angry people burnt tyres and chanted full-throated slogans against the US.
Meanwhile, AJK Prime Minister Ch Abdul Majeed called upon the Muslim Ummah to immediately summon a joint emergency meeting of all the Islamic countries to condemn the blasphemous film. Earlier, he led a rally.
Meanwhile, Yum! Brands is shuttering all of its KFC franchises in Pakistan in the wake of anti-American protests, after one of its KFC restaurants was attacked in Lebanon last week, the company. “Our KFC restaurants in Pakistan are being closing down as a precautionary measure,” said Yum! Brands spokesman Christopher Fuller. “They will continually monitor the situation to decide when to re-open.” KFC has more than 60 restaurants in 21 Pakistani cities, and has a significant presence throughout the Muslim world.