Pakistan police have teargassed protesters to disperse them in the garrison city of Rawalpindi near the capital Islamabad. Nonetheless a massive crowd emerged on the streets despite chilly weather conditions. At the heart of the intense public anger is the display of blasphemous cartoons of the Prophet of Islam by the French government on state-run buildings last month.
Since then, there has been no letup in protests in Pakistan, where there has been an unprecedented level of public resentment against France and its citizens over the publication and public display of anti-Islamic cartoons.
Protesters have vowed to avenge the blasphemy committed against Islamic sanctities. They are now demanding that the French ambassador be expelled from the country.
Two weeks ago, protesters attempted to force their entry into the red zone of the federal capital in an effort to storm the French embassy. Pakistan’s mainstream media largely opted for a news blackout of the event, allegedly under government pressure to contain agitation on this most sensitive issue.
Organizers of the latest rally have complained that large numbers of protesters were arrested to prevent them from participating in the gathering. The police blocked major highways to block the entry of angry protesters into the capital city. Extraordinary security measures were taken to avert a repetition of violent clashes that happened not far from French embassy in Islamabad earlier this month.