KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — A rally by Pakistani students against a French satirical weekly’s latest publication of a Prophet Mohammad cartoon turned violent on Friday, with police firing warning shots and water cannons to disperse the demonstration. A photographer with the Agence France-Presse was shot and wounded in the melee.
Protesters took to the streets after midday prayers in the port city of Karachi, the eastern city of Lahore and the capital of Islamabad to protest Charlie Hebdo’s publishing this week of another cover depicting the prophet — an act deemed insulting to many followers of Islam.
The weekly’s new issue with a drawing of Muhammad, a tear rolling down his cheek and holding a placard that says “Je Suis Charlie” — a saying that has swept France and the world — was an act of defiance in the wake of last week’s terrorist attack at the paper’s Paris office that killed 12 people, including editors, cartoonists and two policemen.
Pakistan has condemned the Paris massacre but many people in this overwhelmingly Muslim country view the magazine’s prophet caricatures as a profound insult, and there have been scattered protests against the magazine around the country.
On Friday, clashes erupted in Karachi when the protesters started heading toward the French consulate. The protesters began throwing stones at the police, who tried to push them back with water cannons and tear gas.
AFP news director Michele Leridon said that photographer Asif Hassan was shot and wounded. He underwent surgery and “his life does not seem in danger,” Leridon said.
It was not immediately clear how the photographer was shot, and AFP said they were now trying to find out whether Hassan was targeted or accidentally shot.
Karachi police officer, Naseer Tanoly, said some of the protesters were armed and opened fire on police first. He said the police fired into the air to disperse the crowd.
The protesters were mostly students affiliated with the Jamaat-e-Islami political party.
In Islamabad, about 1,000 people gathered after Friday prayers to condemn the magazine for what they called blasphemous images of the prophet. The demonstrators carried signs that read “Shame on Charlie Hebdo” and “If you are Charlie, then I am Kouachi” — referring to the brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi who were behind the massacre at the weekly and who had told survivors they were sent by al-Qaida in Yemen.
About 800 people rallied against the magazine for a second day in Lahore on Friday.
In a symbolic gesture on Thursday, Pakistani lawmakers passed a resolution against cartoons of the prophet and marched outside parliament to protest Charlie Hebdo’s latest cover.
The magazine has invoked freedom of speech to defend its publications of cartoons of the prophet.
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