September 24, 2012

Over 20 Killed in Pakistan's Violent Demonstrations

By Jennifer Rowland at The AfPak Channel

A national holiday of violence
Pakistan's official "Day of Love for the Prophet Muhammad" turned into a day of deadly protests on Friday, with at least 20 people killed and over 200 injured as protesters angry over an anti-Islam film clashed with police in major cities across the country (NYT, Post, ET, CNN, Dawn, WSJ, LAT). Some 12 to 14 people were killed in clashes in Karachi alone, while a television worker died when police opened fire on protesters torching cinemas in Peshawar, and more were killed as the mobs tried to reach the American Consulate there.

On Saturday, Pakistan's federal railway minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour placed a $100,000 bounty on the head of the person responsible for producing the contentious film, entitled Innocence of Muslims, and reportedly invited al-Qaeda and the Taliban to be "partners in this noble deed" (NYT, BBC, Reuters, The News, ET). The United States condemned the bounty, and the Pakistani government quickly moved to distance itself from it, saying that it does not represent official government policy (AP, AJE). Meanwhile, Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar met last week with top U.S. officials in Washington, where she said on Friday that ties between the two countries are improving, and condemned the "blasphemous" anti-Islam film while avoiding direct criticism of the violence taking place in response to it (AFP, AP, ET, ET).

On Saturday, a U.S. drone killed four suspected militants in Pakistan's North Waziristan Agency (AP). The Pakistani government said on Sunday that flash floods two weeks ago killed at least 51 people and affected a total of 700,000 in the southwestern province of Balochistan (AFP). Interior Minister Rehman Malik announced a relief assistance package worth Rs2.6 billion for those impacted. And a Pakistani judge sent the blasphemy case against a Christian girl, Rimsha Masih, to juvenile court on Monday, after reading a medical report that confirmed she is 14 years old (AFP).

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