Anti-Islam film protests grip Pakistan; one killed (Second Lead)

September 21st, 2012 - 7:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Sep 21 (IANS) One person was gunned down Friday when a demonstration against an anti-Islam film turned violent in Peshawar. Pakistan summoned a US diplomat to lodge an official protest and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said freedom of expression must not be used to insult religions.

Protests took place across the country Friday against the anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims” that has triggered angry demonstrations around the world. Bloody clashes took place as the country observed Youm-e-Ishq-e-Rasool (love of Prophet Mohammad day).

Pakistan summoned US Charge D’Affaires Richard Hoagland and a strong protest was lodged with him over the blasphemous video posted on YouTube.

The demonstration in Peshawar took an ugly turn when the protestors set fire to two cinemas.

Protestors damaged the Chamber of Commerce building while in a firing incident on GT Road, an employee of a private TV channel was killed and seven others were injured, Geo News reported.

A cinema guard opened fire, injuring one person, when a crowd armed with clubs and bamboo poles converged on the Firdaus picture house, smashing it up and setting furniture ablaze, police officer Gohar Ali said.

Witnesses said the crowd stormed Shama cinema, smashing windows and setting it afire.

Authorities used shipping containers to block roads leading to the US consulate, the offices of Western aid organisations and other key buildings in the city.

The authorities have also shut down the mobile phone network in 15 cities across the country in an effort to contain the violence.

Violence also took place in Rawalpindi as demonstrators took to the roads leading to capital Islamabad and pelted cars and police with stones and burned down a booth at a toll plaza, said Mohammad Munir, a police official.

In capital Islamabad, at least five people were arrested and police used tear gas shelling to deter the protestors from entering the heavily fortified red zone.

Several containers have also been place around the red zone and a posse of police personnel were deployed. The army was also on alert.

A day earlier, huge crowds had attempted to storm Islamabad’s diplomatic enclave. The army was summoned to Islamabad to protect the diplomatic enclave and other sensitive areas of the city.

On Friday, Pakistan summoned US Charge D’Affaires Richard Hoagland to the foreign ministry in Islamabad and a strong protest was lodged with him over the blasphemous video posted on YouTube.

“The US diplomat was told that this was an attack on 1.5 billion Muslims and a premeditated and a malicious act to spread hatred and violence among people of different faiths,” reported Xinhua citing the foreign ministry.

The foreign ministry said the American diplomat was further conveyed that the US government should immediately take measures to remove the sacrilegious video from YouTube and take action against its author, a statement said.

The Pakistani government called for peaceful protest and declared Friday as a national holiday to facilitate the people to join the protest.

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf spoke at a largely-attended gathering in Islamabad and condemned the anti-Islam movie and stressed that no one should insult religions under the excuse of freedom of expression.

Ashraf said freedom of expression could not be an excuse for insulting religious beliefs and inciting hatred.

Speaking at an official function in Islamabad as part of the nationwide protest against the anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims” made in the US, he said no one should be allowed to defame religion on the excuse of freedom of expression.

“Let me make it absolutely clear: this is not about freedom of expression, this is more about hatred, and it also demonstrates blatant double-standards,” Ashraf said.

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