Islamabad becomes war zone as protests turn violent
By: Shakeel Anjum
ISLAMABAD: Army troops were called in aid of the civil administration to protect the Red Zone and the Diplomatic Enclave in Islamabad on Thursday after protesters tried to enter these areas to register their protest against the anti-Islam film.
The capital city turned into a veritable battlefield as clashes were reported between the police and protesters at scattered venues of Islamabad, including Dhokri Chowk, Serena Chowk and the State Bank barrier.
The situation turned particularly ugly after law enforcing agencies used teargas shells to disperse the protesters. The angry protestors ransacked barriers, set police posts on fire, burnt tyres and signboards and stormed into the Red Zone.
According to information collected from various hospitals, 57 cops, including SHO Aabpara police station and Inspector Jamshed Khan, were seriously injured when protesters pelted stones at them. Inspector Jamshed Khan sustained head injuries and was reported to be in a critical condition while tens of protesters were also wounded as the police resorted to baton charge.
The protesters comprised traders and students of different institutions of Rawalpindi and Islamabad and religious seminaries who showed their aggression against the law enforcing agencies for over seven hours despite heavy shelling of teargas and baton chargea. Khayaban-e-Suharwardi in front of the Serena Hotel resembled a warzone.
Thousands of people marched from Rawalpindi and the Industrial Area towards Aabpara and the Red Zone via Murree Road, Kashmir Highway and Khayaban-e-Suharwardi but were intercepted near Dhokri Chowk, the State Bank barrier and Serena Chowk. A battle thus ensued between the protestors and police. The agitators also damaged property of the five-star hotel and pelted stones at vehicles.
During the hide and seek, the police detained and later released dozens of protestors for breaching peace.
After a long battle between the police and protesters, army troops were deployed at the entry points of the Diplomatic Enclave and Red Zone while troops also patrolled the compound of the Diplomatic Enclave and sensitive areas of the Red Zone. Air surveillance was also carried out to ensure order in these areas. The protesters dispersed in the evening after the troops took their positions.
Inspector General Police Islamabad, Bin Yameen, told this correspondent that the police had to handle an angry mob of over 25,000 with limited resources. The IG said he along with deputy commissioner Islamabad held successful talks with the people leading the protest demonstration before the arrival of the Army troops and convinced them to be calm.
Agencies add: Protests against the blasphemous film were also held in Lahore, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Bahawalpur, Lalamusa, Chakwal, Gujranwala, Nankana Sahib, Toba Tek Singh, Muzaffargarh and other parts of the country.
Meanwhile, the US warned its citizens to avoid travel to Pakistan amid ongoing protests. The warning from the State Department updates an August 27 advisory, which warned of the “risks of travel to Pakistan” but stopped short of recommending Americans avoid travelling there.
Up to 200 people protested without incident in front of France’s embassy in Tehran. The protesters chanted “Death to France,” as well as Israel and the United States, as dozens of police deployed around the embassy compound in central Tehran prevented the crowd from approaching.
Hundreds of Afghans also protested against the blasphemous cartoons published in France and staged fresh rallies against a US-made anti-Islam film. About 300 students chanted “death to France, death to America” in a western neighbourhood of the capital Kabul.
Thousands of people marched in the Nigerian city of Zaria and burnt US and Israeli flags. They dragged the US and Israeli flags along the dusty streets and burnt them at the end of the 10-kilometre (eight-mile) march amidst cries of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”
In Paris, police have banned a demonstration planned for Saturday in front of the city’s Grand Mosque to protest against the sacrilegious film. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the anti-Islam film a “disgraceful and shameful act.”
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard called on immigrants to learn English and respect women as she condemned protests against the anti-Islam film as “extremism”. Gillard, the country’s first atheist prime minister, said living in Australia’s culturally diverse society came with the obligation to leave “old hatreds” behind and “find shared identity on common ground”.
Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said it was legitimate to shut down websites that incite hatred.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has warned that the blasphemous cartoons published in France will trigger a new wave of anti-Western violence. In a statement, OIC chief Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu “expressed shock and dismay over” the depictions and warned they would “further exacerbate the ongoing turmoil and violence created by the release of the anti-Islam film.