ISLAMABAD, Sept 20: The Army was called in on Thursday to prevent close to 3,000 angry protesters from entering the diplomatic enclave in Islamabad during a protest against the anti-Islam film.
The US Embassy is one kilometre away from the entrance of the diplomatic enclave and there are no barriers inside. According to Express News correspondent Qamarul Munawar, if the protesters, who are present at the gate of the enclave, manage to break through, then it will result in chaos.
He added that the Army was called in as the police shelling remained ineffective in controlling the protesters.
Express News correspondent Haider Naseem reported that the protesters coming from Rawalpindi to Islamabad headed back after the police hurled tear gas at them.
Around 50 protesters and 38 police officials were injured during the riots who were shifted to the Polyclinic hospital.
An ulema delegation met with the IG Police and chief commissioner and agreed on a deal. Maulana Zahoor Alvi confirmed that the arrested protesters were also released.
SSP Traffic Police Islamabad Dr Moeen Masood told Radio Pakistan that the red zone of Islamabad will remain closed on Friday for traffic.
He said that the normal traffic would ply between the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi as well as within Islamabad.
Dr Masood added that 274 Islamabad police personnel were deployed for controlling traffic and they would remain alert on Friday as well.
Mobile services will also remain suspended in Islamabad tomorrow (Friday) from 9am-11pm to avoid any untoward incident.
Islamabad’s heavily-guarded diplomatic enclave is home to most Western embassies, including the US, British and French missions.
Earlier during the protest, police fired live rounds and tear gas to break up a crowd of students, many armed with wooden clubs.
The crudely made Innocence of Muslims has triggered protests in at least 20 countries since excerpts were posted online, and more than 30 people have been killed in violence linked to the film.
There have been dozens of protests around Pakistan over the past week and at least two people have been killed, but Thursday is the first time protests in the capital have turned violent.
Police fired tear gas and live rounds as the protesters, chanting “We are ready to die to safeguard the Prophet’s (pbuh) honour,” tried to break through a barrier of truck containers set up to block access to the diplomatic enclave.
“I was ordered by my boss to disperse the crowd and that is why I had to open live fire but the aim was nearby trees and not the demonstrators,” Zaman Khan, a police officer deployed at the picket said.
The firing forced the protesters to scatter, but they returned later to pelt the police picket with stones.
Student Asif Mehmood demanded police let the protesters through to the US embassy and urged harsh treatment for American pastor Terry Jones, notorious for past Quran-burning episodes and who is reportedly connected to the film.
“Terry Jones and the filmmaker should be sternly punished for playing with the feelings of Muslims. We will not tolerate this blasphemy,” Mehmood said.
Fellow protester Rehan Ahmad said: “Islam is often ridiculed by America and the West and blasphemy is committed against our Prophet (pbuh) in the name of freedom of expression.”