01/17/2015, 00.00
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Pakistan, injuries in protests against Charlie Hebdo. Paul Bhatti: risk of violent drift

Yesterday demonstrations were held in Karachi and other cities of the country against the cover of the satirical weekly, depicting (again) the image of Mohammed. Protesters try to penetrate the French consulate; a photographer seriously hurt. Catholic leader: extremist movements exploit poverty and ignorance to foment violence.

Karachi (AsiaNews) - In Pakistan, but not only, there is a very real risk "of a violent drift" fueled by extremist movements that "exploits and manipulates" people, promoting "in an anti-Western" events that could become threatening. Speaking to AsiaNews, Paul Bhatti former Federal Minister for National Harmony and leader of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), comments on the marches held yesterday in several cities of the Asian country against the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

In response to the attack in which 12 people were killed, including the director and leading cartoonists, the magazine published a new edition again with an image of Muhammad on its' cover. However, the cartoon has sparked the ire of extremist leaders and governments of Muslim-majority nations, who speak of a "fresh provocation" against Islam.

Yesterday in the streets of Karachi there were heavy clashes between police and demonstrators, who wanted to penetrate the French consulate to deliver a letter of protest. The officers used tear gas, batons and water cannons to disperse the crowd. The march, in the southern metropolis like in other cities of Pakistan, was promoted by the Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest Islamist party inspired the country.

Some people were injured in the clashes. These included an AFP photographer who received gunshot wounds and in a serious condition. Police sources report that several protesters took to the streets armed and opened fire "first" on police. Previously, in a strongly symbolic gesture parliamentarians in Islamabad approved a resolution condemning the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo of Mohammed; several Assembly members took to the streets with citizens to protest the cover, considering it offensive.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Paul Bhatti said that "this wave of terrorism is affecting the whole world." On the one hand there is a problem of "freedom of expression", on the other hand there is "an ideology that has nothing to do with religion, but exploits the faith" for their own purposes and terrorist purposes. The Pakistani Catholic leader while not endorsing cartoons that are an "abuse of freedom of satire" and " bother me too ", recalls the need to "fight" those who use religion "to attack".

In Pakistan there is a big problem of "illiteracy," says the leader of APMA, involving "50% of the population"; it "sees enemies everywhere" and extremist movements "capture the sympathy and the consent of these people, abusing their ignorance, their poverty." The fear of a violent drift is very real, he concludes, because there are fringes that "want to exploit these events to stir up even more confrontation."

With a population of more than 180 million people (97 per cent Muslim), Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, the second largest Muslim nation after Indonesia. About 80 per cent of Muslims are Sunni, whilst Shias are 20 per cent. Hindus are 1.85 per cent, followed by Christians (1.6 per cent) and Sikhs (0.04 per cent).

Already in 2006 the Asian nation was the scene of massive demonstrations against the publication by a Danish newspaper of cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad which offended Muslims. (DS)


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