“Cartoon jihad” escalates

“Death to Denmark!” Does it get any more surreal than this? From the foreign press on the escalating anti-cartoon protests:

Police clobbered stone-throwing protesters with batons and fired tear gas in the Pakistanian city of Peshawar on Wednesday – Pakistan’s third consecutive day of violent protests over the Prophet Muhammad cartoons, witnesses said.

As police battled protesters in Peshawar, another violent demonstration erupted about 230 kilometers (140 miles) away in the town of Tank, where 2,000 people rallied, said Attiq Wazir, a police official in the town. Protesters set fire to 30 shops selling CDs, DVDs and videos in Tank, Wazir said.

One policeman was injured when someone among the protesters opened fire to resist arrests, another police official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

In Peshawar, the violence kicked off after about 6,000 protesters gathered at a busy traffic intersection. Many were chanting “Death to Denmark!” and “Hang those who drew the insulting cartoons!” Others burned Danish flags and effigies of the Danish prime minister.

Police fired tear gas and swang batons to disperse protesters blocked the street. Most shops, public transport and other businesses were closed in the city. [AP from Haaretz, Israel, Feb. 15]

Two people died and 45 were injured on Pakistan’s third consecutive day of violent protests over the Prophet Muhammad cartoons. Protesters burned a KFC restaurant and cinemas in the north-western city of Peshawar, police said.

The dead included an eight-year-old boy who was hit in the face by a bullet in Ganj, a densely populated area in Peshawar, said Shahid Khan, a police officer.

More than 70,000 people gathered on Peshawar’s streets in Pakistan’s biggest protest yet against the Prophet Muhammad cartoons, said Saeed Wazir, a senior police officer.

As the violence raged in Peshawar, fighting flared up in the eastern city of Lahore. About 1,500 students surprised police by staging an unannounced rally outside the Punjab University, said Chaudhry Shafqat, a senior police official. [Press Association from The Scotsman, UK, Feb. 15]

In Lahore, two demonstrators, identified as Qaiser and Rafique, were killed as security guards for Metropolitan Bank on Kashmir Road opened fire at a mob attacking the bank. The mob burnt the building and 50 motorcycles and 20 cars parked outside.

The main rally in Lahore, some 15,000-strong, was held at Faisal Chowk, while groups of 35 to 50 youngsters staged separate protests all over the city. Over 400 markets and business centres in the city were closed to observe a strike called by religious groups and opposition parties and backed by trade unions. Government officials said organisers of the protests reneged on a promise to keep them peaceful. The demonstrators shouted slogans denouncing President Musharraf, US President George Bush and European leaders. They burnt tyres and piles of wood on roads and chowks across the city. They also tore down large posters of Gen Musharraf and the visiting Bangladeshi prime minister.

Most of the violence was on The Mall, where the rioters torched hundreds of cars and motorcycles and damaged government buildings and private businesses. Paramilitary troops were called in to restore calm after police failed to do so.

Outlets of foreign fast food companies McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut as well as several local restaurants and businesses were attacked and set on fire. Several shops were broken into and looted.

The demonstrators entered the Punjab Assembly and threw fire crackers around, which caused a fire to break out in a room next to the chambers of the opposition leader. The police dispersed the protestors with tear gas shells, but they moved on to the PIA [Pakistan International Airlines] building and broke windows.

They attacked the Holiday Inn on Egerton Road and the nearby Aiwan-e-Iqbal, smashing windows and burning cars, and damaged several greenbelts in the area. [Daily Times, Pakistan, Feb. 15]

Pakistan’s religious and political parties, including the ruling Muslim League, on Saturday called for the country wide shutter down on March 3rd against the publication of blasphemous cartoons in several European newspapers.

Leaders of opposition and ruling parties gathered in Islamabad at the invitation of Jamaat-e-Islami and also decided to organize big demonstrations in Islamabad and Lahore on February 19 and 26, respectively. Another March will be organized in Karachi on March 5.

A statement was issued at the end of the day-long meeting attended by chief of the ruling Muslim League Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.

The statement urged all Islamic states to withdraw their ambassadors from countries where newspapers and magazines have published blasphemous cartoons. They also called for expulsion of representatives of those countries from the Islamic countries. [IRNA, Iran, Feb. 15]

Islamabad police have fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse students who entered the diplomatic enclave during a protest demonstration against the blasphemous and derogatory cartoons publication in western media…

The marching students also crashed the gate of federal capital’s diplomatic enclave. They were demanding severing of Pakistan’s diplomatic ties with countries where media published the blasphemous cartoons.

The protestors forced closure of shops and damaged the property. They had also entered into diplomatic enclave after breaking the entrance. Police baton charged the protesters and used tear gas to disperse them including arrest of many demonstrators…

Elected legislators belonging to all parties also held a separate silent protest in front of the Parliament House…

President Pervez Musharraf has said that the newspapers that printed the cartoons were “oblivious” to the consequences for peace and harmony in the world. [SANA, Syria, from Kashar World News, Pakistan, Feb. 14]

In a related story, in the Philippine city of Manila, hundreds of Muslim protesters ripped apart and burned Danish flags in a noisy rally Wednesday at the Danish honorary consulate over the Mohammed cartoons.

The protesters demanded that Denmark apologize over the cartoons that first appeared in a Danish newspaper, which they said portrayed Muhammad in a blasphemous way. They also demanded that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo condemn the caricatures. [AP from Haaretz, Feb. 15]

See our last posts on the cartoon jihad and Pakistan.