Protesters denouncing an anti-Islam film clashed with security forces near the United States Consulate in the Pakistani port city of Karachi on Sunday even as the Lashkar-e-Tayiba founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed demanded that the government sever its ties with Western countries.
Hundreds of members of the Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen got past several barriers near the US Consulate in Karachi and tried to march towards the building. The police initially used batons, teargas and water cannons to push back the protesters, who lobbed stones and bricks at the security personnel.
After failing to disperse the protesters, security personnel fired in the air for several minutes. Footage on television showed policemen and paramilitary troopers firing their assault rifles in the air as the crowd surged forward.
A spokesman for a private ambulance service said six to eight persons were injured in the protest. The Pakistan government stepped up security at American missions across the country after the US envoy to Libya was killed by gunmen during a violent protest last week.
Pakistan witnessed low-key protests against the anti-Islam film on Saturday but those demonstrations had ended peacefully. In Lahore, Hafiz Saeed participated in a large
'Hurmat-e-Rasool' rally on Mall Road, the main thoroughfare in the city, and demanded that the Pakistan government should immediately end diplomatic relations with all Western countries and recall its envoys to protest the film.
"We do not demand an apology alone from the US government but the hanging of all the persons involved in this blasphemous film," Saeed said.
He asked the Pakistan People's Party-led government to sever diplomatic relations with the Western world. Saeed, who now heads the Jamaat-ud-Dawah, said his group will convene a conference of all political parties on the issue and invite President Asif Ali Zardari, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan to participate.
Saeed demanded the government take steps to remove the film from the internet. The Jamaat-e-Islami organised a large rally from its headquarters at Mansoora to New Campus.
The students' wing of Imran Khan's party organised a demonstration outside the US consulate in Lahore. Additional policemen were deployed across the city to avert untoward incidents. The Pakistan government has already condemned the film and directed authorities to block access to it on the internet.