Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamaat-ud-Dawah protests attract several thousand people across Pakistan.
Thousands marched across Pakistan on Sunday against the publication of blasphemous cartoons by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, two days after similar protests were held across southern Asia.
The largest rally on Sunday was held in Karachi by the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), and according to police estimates it was attended by some 25,000 people. Protesters shouted slogans including “death to France”, “death to the blasphemers” and “(We are) ready to sacrifice life for the Prophet,” as anger remains potent over the magazine’s repeated depiction of Islam’s Prophet.
Karachi has seen the biggest rallies in nationwide demonstrations against the magazine, whose Paris offices were attacked on Jan. 7 by Islamist gunmen, killing 12 people.
Charlie Hebdo this month published a “survivors” issue with an image of Islam’s Prophet weeping on the cover, triggering a wave of angry condemnation and protest in Muslim-majority countries across the world.
Speaking at the protest, JI chief Siraj-ul-Haq demanded Pakistan call a meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a group of Muslim countries, and urged the United Nations “to curb the menace of blasphemy” through changes to international law. “In Paris hundreds of thousands of people came onto the streets to support Satan’s agents and in response to that hundreds and thousands of people have come out here on the streets for love of the Prophet,” Haq said.
Another sizeable demonstration was held Sunday by Jamaat-ud-Dawah, the charitable arm of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group that India accuses of the 2008 attacks on its financial capital Mumbai that claimed 166 lives. Police estimated that at least 12,000 people attended the JuD rally against Charlie Hebdo in Karachi.
JuD Chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, who is considered an abettor of Al Qaeda by the U.N., asked protesters not only to boycott French products, but to refuse to buy all European imports in protest against the magazine.
JI also held an anti-Charlie Hebdo rally in Lahore—attended by some 5,000 people. A few hundred also turned out for a street protest in Quetta.
Under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, insulting Islam’s Prophet can carry the death penalty, and the prime minister and Parliament have strongly condemned the publication of the cartoons.
At least three people were injured on Jan. 16 when protesters and police clashed at an anti-Charlie Hebdo demonstration outside the French consulate in Karachi.