Protests against writer Salman Rushdie's knighthood continue to rage in Pakistan, with a prominent cleric "condemning him to death", as former prime minister Benazir Bhutto demanded the dismissal of a minister for "calling for the murder of a foreign citizen".
The Imam of Islamabad's Lal Masjid, Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi, said in a statement: "He is condemned to death. Whosoever is in position to kill him, he should do so."
Hundreds of traders and Muslim seminary students also joined politicians belonging mainly to rightwing conglomerate Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) in demonstrating their anger at the British honour given to the India born Rushdie.
Effigies of Rushdie were burnt at Islamabad, Lahore, Multan and other Pakistani cities, the Daily Times reported Thursday.
"This is an attempt to provoke Muslims all over the world," Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, an MMA leader, told a rally of about 200 women outside parliament in Islamabad. Several hundred people including members of the provincial parliament protested in Lahore.
Adding her voice to the intensifying debate, Bhutto said in a statement that Religious Affairs Minister Ejaz-ul-Haq had done "a great disservice both to the image of Islam and the standing of Pakistan by calling for the murder of a foreign citizen".
Haq had reacted angrily last Tuesday to Rushdie being conferred a knighthood by British Queen Elizabeth II on her birthday, saying that such a "provocative" act could justify suicide attacks.
The British government took serious exception to a minister making such a statement and conveyed its displeasure to the Pakistani government.
Bhutto said in a statement that although the sentiments of Muslims were outraged when Rushdie was awarded a knighthood, neither Islam nor the law allowed suicide attacks.
Bhutto has been living in exile, alternating between London and Dubai.
While she has spoken out, there is no reaction from her rival-turned-ally and another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, who heads the conservative Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.