September 21, 2012
Pakistan’s Love for the Prophet Day marked by violence
UPDATE: A private television channel’s (ARY) driver succumbed to his injuries after he was shot during a protest in Peshawar. His name was Mohammad Amir.
Clerics on an Express News talk show defended violent protests as Muslims expressing their feelings. Destroying two cinemas is probably not the answer. And I'll bet, those very same protesters who burnt the cinemas went there regularly to watch films.
The government of Pakistan announced Sept 21, Friday, Ishq-e-Rasool (PBUH) Day or Love for the Prophet Day as a national holiday. The ostensible aim was to try and cap the violent protests that have erupted thanks to the Innocence of Muslims trailer. The plan didn’t work.
A mob attacked a cinema on Grand Trunk Road in Peshawar, tear gas and baton charge were put into action in Islamabad and elsewhere rallies, some with school children, marched with banners declaring sentiment for the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Similar scenes were reported from Lahore.
Cell phone services have been cut off in 15 major cities in Pakistan to prevent people from organizing violence. This is the second time in a month that the government has resorted to this tactic. On August 19, the government did the same thing in a bid to prevent a bomber from attacking Eid morning prayer congregations on the big day. The last time I think I remember such drastic measures being taken was when I was a teenager in 1992. Nawaz Sharif was prime minister and a military operation was being conducted in Karachi against a political party. If memory serves me correctly, cell phones had just been introduced but were being used, among other things, to coordinate killings and help activists go underground.
The government’s attempts to prevent violence from breaking out aren’t working. On the radio special messages from President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have been running to clarify the US stance: it condemns the wretched ‘film’ but also decries violent reaction.
Shipping containers have been used to block the road to the US consulate in Karachi. It came under attack last week, when Molotov Cocktails were chucked over the wall as a mob managed to get close. The consulate’s compound is a quasi fortress with double concrete barriers. It is located at the end of an isolated road through mangrove swamps but unfortunately it is flanked on one side with an unplanned settlement. My reporter who covered it told me that people emerged from that side. He was hit in the face with a rock himself.
As I write this, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf spoke at a seminar or convention in Islamabad, saying that the government would take the issue up at the UN level.
The government is running a message on television channels reaffirming that it had announced a national holiday for the Love of the Prophet (PBUH). It asks people to refrain from violence as this was not the way of the Prophet (PBUH).
My question is, though, that there were scores of prophets who are mentioned in the Holy Quran. Do we get a national holiday for all of them?
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