Support to Hafiz: Protesters burn the US flag in Karachi
THOUSANDS of Islamist activists hit the streets of Pakistan on Friday (April 6), demanding holy war and torching US flags to condemn a $10m (£6.31m) bounty slapped on the founder of a terror group.
The Defence Council of Pakistan, an alliance of right-wing, religious and extremist groups, organised the rallies to denounce the US move against Hafiz Saeed, who established the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
The day’s largest demonstration came in Lahore, a stronghold of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the charity seen as a front for LeT.
Up to 2,000 rallied in the city, shouting “America deserves one treatment: Jihad! Jihad! (holy war).”
Protests were also staged in Islamabad, the neighbouring garrison city of Rawalpindi, the southern port city of Karachi, the central shrine city of Multan and in Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir.
In Muzaffarabad, around 500 activists shouted “jihad! Jihad!” as they marched on the city and set fire to a US flag in a main square.
Speakers urged President Asif Ali Zardari to cancel a visit to India on Sunday (April 8) - the first by a Pakistani head of state since 2005 - and demanded an American apology for the bounty.
“Such steps are forcing Muslims towards guns,” said Abdul Aziz Alvi, the local head of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which is blacklisted by the UN and US, along with LeT.
In Islamabad and Rawalpindi, activists of Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Jamat-e-Islami, which has seats in parliament, shouted anti-American and anti-Indian slogans.
In Rawalpindi, around 150 activists set fire to an American flag, crying “death to America” after Friday prayers, an news photographer said, while in the capital, the same number gathered outside the national press club and shouted “Al-Jihad and we stand by Hafiz Saeed”.
Hundreds of Jamaat-ud-Dawa supporters rallied in Karachi, the biggest city in the country of 174 million. They waved black-and-white flags and banners inscribed with anti-US and anti-India slogans.
Protesters in Multan burnt an American flag, a reporter said, and around 100 demonstrated in Peshawar.
“Our protests will continue until the US withdraws its bounty of $10 million against Hafiz Saeed,” Defence Council of Pakistan organiser Hafiz Abdul Ghaffar told reporters.
The reward for Saeed was announced by US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in India on Monday (April 2).
Saeed, who lives openly in Pakistan, has mocked the charges, calling a press conference to say he is ready to face “any American court”.
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