Monday, September 24, 2012

Bounty offer makes Pakistan squirm

ISLAMABAD, September 23, 2012

Railway Minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour's announcement of a $100,000 bounty for anyone who kills the man behind the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims has put more egg on the federal government's face as it battles with the criticism of encouraging last Friday's arson by calling for a national day of protest.

On Saturday, Mr. Bilour – who belongs to the Awami National Party (ANP) that traces its roots back to 'Frontier Gandhi' Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan – not only announced the bounty from his personal resources but also invited the Taliban and Al-Qaeda to join the hunt.

His invitation to the Taliban has surprised everyone as the ANP and Taliban are sworn enemies with the party losing a number of stalwarts to targeted attacks by terrorists.

Ironically, Mr. Bilour's own property had been vandalised in Friday's violence. Shama, a cinema hall owned by his family in Peshawar and a favourite haunt for those in search of adult movies, was burnt down by a mob.

The federal government has since sought to distance itself from Mr. Bilour's statement with the Prime Minister's spokesperson maintaining that this had nothing to do with the ruling dispensation.

Further, he said the Pakistan People's Party leadership would speak to the ANP to decide on the future course of action.

The ANP, for its part, has also distanced itself from the bounty offer. Its parliamentarians Bushra Gohar and Zahid Khan said this was in violation of party policy.

"There is no doubt it is irresponsible, outrageous, dangerous, and against party policy," Ms. Gohar tweeted in response to a slew of questions on Twitter and widespread condemnation.

Meanwhile, protests continued over the weekend against the film but remained peaceful.

In a related development, people in various cities turned up on Sunday with brooms and garbage bags to clean the areas that bore the brunt of the marauding mobs.
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