$25,000 bounty put on head of Danish cartoonist
17 February 2006, ISLAMABAD - As protests continued Friday against cartoons deemed offensive to Islam published by a Danish newspaper, the Danish government announced plans to "temporarily" close its embassy in Islamabad while Pakistan recalled its envoy from Copenhagen.
17 February 2006
ISLAMABAD - As protests continued Friday against cartoons deemed offensive to Islam published by a Danish newspaper, the Danish government announced plans to "temporarily" close its embassy in Islamabad while Pakistan recalled its envoy from Copenhagen.
Telephone callers to the Danish embassy were greeted by a recorded message announcing that "the embassy chancery is temporarily closed until further notice."
It said callers should call the German embassy in Islamabad for help with urgent consular matters.
However, Pakistani government officials said they were unaware that the Danish embassy had closed.
A private Pakistani TV channel quoted foreign ministry officials as saying that the Danish embassy did not inform them about the closure.
However, a very brief statement by the foreign ministry spokesperson Tasneem Aslam said Pakistan's ambassador in Copenhagen Javaid A.Qureshi has been called to Islamabad for consultations.
Meanwhile, a Pakistani cleric said some well-off citizens in the northwestern Peshawar have put a bounty of a car and 25,000 US dollars on the head of the cartoonist who made the satirical sketches of the Prophet Mohammed.
Maulana Yousaf Qureshi, head of Peshawar's central mosque - Mohabat Khan - told Deutsche Presse Agentur that the locals, mainly businessmen and traders, asked him to announce the reward on their behalf as the cartoon issue "badly" hurt their feelings.
The reward "will encourage people to kill the blasphemer," Qureshi said, adding that he hoped that many other people would come up with more such announcements.
"If they can put a bounty on Muslims, why not we. He (the cartoonist) is a terrorist for us," the cleric said.
President of Goldsmiths' association, Israr Ahmed Khan, said his organization would fix the amount on Saturday. "We will definitely announce (the reward money) and it will be in dollars," Khan said.
Earlier Friday, former US President Bill Clinton joined in the worldwide condemnation and described publication of offensive caricatures in the European media depicting the Prophet Mohammed as a "mistake" that infringed on feelings in the Islamic world.
Talking to reporters in Islamabad after meeting Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, Clinton condemned the publication of the sacrilegious drawings in the European media.
"I strongly disagree with the creation and publication of cartoons considered blasphemous by Muslims around the world," he said.
Clinton's remarks came against the backdrop of continued protests in Pakistan, which have so far claimed five lives and damaged property including commercial buildings, cinemas, some foreign fast- food outlets and private vehicles.
The former US president said the world should take "benefit out of these protests to build bridges between different faiths to promote interfaith harmony."
He stressed that religious convictions should be respected "at all costs" and no media be allowed to play with religious sentiments of any faith.
Meanwhile, police clashed with stick-wielding protestors in Pakistan's port city of Karachi on Friday, after the crowd tried to block a highway in ongoing demonstrations.
A small group of angry protestors suddenly appeared from adjoining streets onto the highway near the Soharab goth area and blocked the road with burning tyres, witnesses said.
Regional home minister Rauf Siddiqui told media in Karachi that police arrested some 65 suspected miscreants, who tried to exploit protestors' sentiments.
The local administration also called out paramilitary forces to control and prevent violence in other areas.
In Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital, various transport unions and traders' associations have announced their support for a strike called by Pasban, a youth wing of the religio- politico Jammat-e-Islami party.
In a separate statement issued in Karachi, a main transporters' union announced it will keep its vehicles off the roads in protest over the printing and reprinting of offensive caricatures.
In eastern Lahore city, the authorities put Hafiz Saeed, former chief of banned militant outfit, Lashkar-e-Toiba, under house detention amid fears of more deadly demonstrations.
"Hafiz (Saeed) was scheduled to address Friday gathering and a demonstration but in the morning, authorities informed that he can't go out," Aftab Ahmed, Saeed's spokesman, told DPA.
Local television channels also reported the arrests of dozens of people in Punjab's Faisalabad and Multan cities for violating a ban against rallies. That followed violent demonstrations in Lahore and Peshawar cities that left at least five people dead in the last three days of countrywide anti-cartoons agitation.
Paramilitary troops have been deployed in the garrison town of Rawalpindi to prevent possible violence during demonstrations called by the country's mainstream opposition Pakistan Peoples Party of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
Security has also been reinforced around diplomatic missions in Islamabad while all educational institutions in the capital and in Rawalpindi will remain closed for two days.
Subject: German news