City turns into one huge protest: Angry demonstrators target US consulate
By: Khalid Hasnain
LAHORE: At least 10 people were injured when groups of protesters tried to break into the American Consulate on a day of charged demonstrations against a profane anti-Islam film here on Friday – officially declared as the Yaum-i-Ishq-i-Rasool (Peace be upon him).
Police used teargas and batons to prevent an attack on the consulate offices off Egerton Road. Late in the day, Rangers were deployed at the site as the police contingent posted there showed signs of wilting against sustained pressure from the angry raiders.
The police tried to intercept the charge approaching from Davies Road and Egerton Road at the Shimla Pahari intersection. The protesters reacted by scaling containers and even removing a couple of them in their determination to march on the consulate. Batons were used and teargas shells fired in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
The police also resorted to aerial firing to block various rallies branching off from The Mall to roads that lead to consulate near the Shimla Pahari. Marching in a long series of groups of varied sizes, the protesters pelted police with stones, injuring many law-enforces. Some groups did manage to come within threatening distance to the last security post near the consulate, but there they were stopped from entering the building.
The protest rallies were taken out from various points in the city by Jamatud Dawa, Jamaat-i-Islami, Pakistan Sunni Tehrik, Sunni Ittehad Council, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-S, Majlis-i-Wahdat-i-Muslimeen, PML-N and PTI after Friday prayers.
The PPP took out a rally on Egerton Road earlier in the day, led by MNA Samina Khalid Ghurki. Apart from these, rallies were staged all over the city all through the day, under the banner of political and religious groups, by professionals such as doctors and paramedic staff, by school administrations, traders and others.
A steady stream of bicycles, motorcycles, cars and vans flowed downtown from all localities of Lahore. The protesters carried placards, banners and party flags, and the route of the rallies resounded with loud slogans condemning the film. Between Regal Chowk and Charing Cross, many effigies of US President Obama and makers of the profane film were set on fire. Serious clashes erupted on The Mall when the police fired teargas to control the protesters repeatedly targeted the billboards bearing images of President Asif Zardari and other PPP leaders.
The groups of protesters, representing many political and religious shades, by and large moved on their own rather than being overseen by a central command. The top leadership of JI, PML-N, PTI – parties which are either headquartered in Lahore or whose heads are based here – stayed away from these rallies.
JuD Chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed was an exception and he did address a big rally at Chauburji Chowk. “We demand the public hanging of all those directly or indirectly involved in making of the (profane) video… We also seek an immediate and effective legislation that can avert such shameful acts in future,” Hafiz Saeed said, and he warned of jihad against the US if these demands were not met. “We will not allow you (the US) to do protect the blasphemer.”