The South Asia Channel

Over 20 killed in Pakistan’s violent demonstrations

Over 20 killed in Pakistan’s violent demonstrations

A national holiday of violence

Pakistan’s official "Day of Love for the Prophet Muhammad" turned into a day of deadly protests on Friday, with at least 20 people killed and over 200 injured as protesters angry over an anti-Islam film clashed with police in major cities across the country (NYT, Post, ET, CNN, Dawn, WSJ, LAT). Some 12 to 14 people were killed in clashes in Karachi alone, while a television worker died when police opened fire on protesters torching cinemas in Peshawar, and more were killed as the mobs tried to reach the American Consulate there.

On Saturday, Pakistan’s federal railway minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour placed a $100,000 bounty on the head of the person responsible for producing the contentious film, entitled Innocence of Muslims, and reportedly invited al-Qaeda and the Taliban to be "partners in this noble deed" (NYT, BBC, Reuters, The News, ET). The United States condemned the bounty, and the Pakistani government quickly moved to distance itself from it, saying that it does not represent official government policy (AP, AJE). Meanwhile, Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar met last week with top U.S. officials in Washington, where she said on Friday that ties between the two countries are improving, and condemned the "blasphemous" anti-Islam film while avoiding direct criticism of the violence taking place in response to it (AFP, AP, ET, ET).

On Saturday, a U.S. drone killed four suspected militants in Pakistan’s North Waziristan Agency (AP). The Pakistani government said on Sunday that flash floods two weeks ago killed at least 51 people and affected a total of 700,000 in the southwestern province of Balochistan (AFP). Interior Minister Rehman Malik announced a relief assistance package worth Rs2.6 billion for those impacted. And a Pakistani judge sent the blasphemy case against a Christian girl, Rimsha Masih, to juvenile court on Monday, after reading a medical report that confirmed she is 14 years old (AFP).

Historic visit

A senior Chinese official, domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang, made China’s first high-level visit to Afghanistan in almost 50 years on Saturday, speaking with President Hamid Karzai on a range of economic and security issues (Reuters, AJE, CNN, Tel, BBC). While in Kabul, Zhou signed a security agreement that includes a pledge to "train, fund, and equip Afghan police" among other things, as analysts say China is looking to increase its presence in Afghanistan ahead of the withdrawal of NATO combat troops in 2014.

The Post’s Anne Gearan reported Friday that the United States and Pakistan are working on a plan to reconcile some Taliban members, and develop the framework of a peace deal in Afghanistan by forming a joint "action group" that would vet militants who wish to join the government (Post).

The Afghan Interior Ministry on Friday announced a ban on Pakistani newspapers, calling them a conduit for Taliban "propaganda" because the papers choose to publish transcripts of Taliban statements (AP, Reuters).

Different kind of drone

Drones are being used in Pakistan as more than a weapon of war, snapping pictures the climbers who dare to take on some of the world’s most difficult peaks, in the vast and beautiful Karakoram mountain range (AP). A Swiss expedition used remote-controlled helicopters this summer to capture images of two professional mountaineers summiting Pakistan’s Trango Tower.

— Jennifer Rowland