Anti-Charlie Hebdo protests erupted across Pakistan on Friday. Jamaat-ud-Dawah was among various religious groups and parties that staged rallies in major Pakistani cities.
In a show of strength, unlike other religious parties which restricted their protests to one city or another, the JuD held rallies in almost all cities of the country to stage their protest against the French magazine and the policies of the French government to allow such publications.
In his address after Friday prayers in Lahore, JuD Hafiz Saeed said that it was a shame that the Western governments were taking pride in blasphemy and that for Muslims this was the worst thing one could do against them. “We are strong in our faith and we reply to this insult in the way we best see fit,” he told thousands of supporters.
Saeed also made reference to moves by the government to shut down the activities of the JuD. “They want to shut us down because we talk of Islam but they have done nothing against the publications of these blasphemous cartoons,” he said, refering to the government. Saeed said that his party would protest both the publication of the cartoons and the attempts to shut down the JuD.
Observers say that the JuD will use the cartoons controversy to position itself against the government moves to ban the organization. “This will give them popular support at a time when the government is trying to shut them down,” commented journalist Abid Ali Syed.
In Karachi, the protests turned violent as police fired water cannon and bullets in the air as they clashed with protesters outside the French consulate in Bath Island on Friday. At least three people were wounded, including an AFP photographer, and taken to hospital, one in a critical condition. AFP photographer Asif Hassan was shot and injured as he was caught in the crossfire while covering the protests but was out of immediate danger following surgery, confirmed the head of the emergency unit of Jinnah Hospital, Dr Seemin Jamali.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has banned the Taliban-linked Haqqani network, officials said on Friday, days after US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government to fight groups that threaten Afghan, Indian and US interests. In a related development, the US also slapped sanctions against two Indians, including a brother of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, and a Pakistan-based paper company for their ties with D Company.