Anti-Islam film: Despite criticism, Bilour stands by bounty offer
ISLAMABAD: Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour on Tuesday stood by his bounty call, saying it was the “only way” to stop insults to the Holy Prophet Muhammed (PBUH).
Bilour sparked international condemnation when he offered $100,000 in blood money for the filmmaker who produced the anti-Islam movie, and urged the Taliban and al Qaeda to carry out what he called the “noble deed”.
The government and Bilour’s own party, the Awami National Party, have distanced themselves from the reward for the person behind the crudely-made film, which has sparked violent protests across the Muslim world.
But Bilour insisted public opinion was behind him. Dozens of protests against the film, including nationwide rallies, on Friday ended in bloodshed and looting, with 21 people killed.
“I expressed my personal view and faith. I stand by my declaration,” he told AFP. “My faith is non-violent, but I cannot forgive and tolerate (this insult).” He said a businessman from Lahore had offered to put up a further $400,000 for the reward and said that freedom of speech should not be used as an excuse to insult Islam.
“Killing is not a good way, but right now it is the only way, because no action has been taken from Western countries (against the filmmaker),” he said. The filmmaker is reported to be a 55-year-old Egyptian Copt and convicted fraudster, based in Los Angeles and currently out on parole.
US reports say the filmmaker wrote and produced the film, using the pseudonym Sam Bacile before being identified. Police questioned him before he went into hiding with his family. Meanwhile, a senior US official said on Tuesday they have raised the issue of Bilour’s bounty offer with President Asif Ali Zardari.
President Zardari raised the issue himself, said the official, adding that the Pakistani government had clearly disassociated itself from Bilour’s statements. “We found the statements inflammatory and unacceptable,” said the official.
In a teleconference with reporters, the senior US administration official said that in the meeting with Secretary Clinton and President Zardari, the latter invited coalition leaders from the government, who also gave their assessments of the situation in the country.
The official said President Zardari and Secretary Clinton had a private meeting after the meeting with coalition partners. He added they discussed the Haqqani Network, countering IEDs, and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
“There has also been an emphasis on moving the relationship towards the economic side as opposed to just assistance,” he said.
The official maintained the US has welcomed the trilateral meeting between UK, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He added the important thing is what the Afghans want from the process, and that is the focus of US and Pakistan’s support for an Afghan-led peace process.
He added Pakistan and US are listening carefully to the Afghans and doing what “they are asking us to do to support this effort.”