Pak to observe Sept 21 as `Love the Prophet Day`

Chairing a meeting of his Cabinet, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf called on people to protest peacefully against the film.

Islamabad/Lahore: Pakistan government Wednesday decided to observe the coming Friday as `Love the Prophet Day` and declared it a national holiday, condemning an anti-Islam film that has led to protests across the world and here too.

The federal cabinet set aside its agenda during a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to condemn the film that has triggered protests across the Muslim world.

The cabinet decided to observe September 21 as "Youm-e-Ishq-e-Rasool" (Love the Prophet Day) to convey the government`s protest.

The day was also declared a national holiday.

"I intend that a message should go to the world that the federal cabinet of Pakistan strongly condemns this sacrilegious film which has created unrest amongst Muslims.

"At this moment, I call upon the people of Pakistan to register their protest peacefully but to observe restraint and not to damage their own property," Ashraf said while addressing the cabinet.

Ashraf said he had already directed the Information Technology Ministry to block YouTube "to register our protest at the availability of this sacrilegious film on the website" and to demand its immediate removal.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters that the government intended to join protests being organised on Friday after the weekly prayers as no one could tolerate the contents of the anti-Islam film.

The government will organise an `Ishq-e-Rasool` (Love the Prophet) conference in Islamabad on Friday, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told a news conference.

Envoys of Muslim nations, federal ministers and political leaders are expected to participate in it.
"We respect the freedom of speech and expression but we cannot allow anyone or any organisation to issue hate material which is painful or defamatory to other religions," Kaira said.

A film that insults the Prophet cannot be part of freedom of expression, he said.

In Islamabad, some 500 lawyers stormed through the outer gate of the heavily fortified diplomatic enclave after marching through the streets to protest against the film.

They were later stopped at an inner cordon by riot police and a small group of lawyers was allowed to go to the US Embassy to present a memorandum.

Some of the lawyers wore headbands inscribed with slogans like "Lovers of the Prophet, death to blasphemers" and "America`s friends are traitors".

They shouted slogans while their leaders made speeches against the US.

The lawyers demanded that the Pakistan government should expel the US ambassador.

They also laid a US flag on the ground walked over it before burning it.

In Lahore, the capital of the most populous province of Punjab, hundreds of members of the Jamaat-e-Islami and its students wing, Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, gathered near the US Consulate and protested for several hours.

Police prevented them from approaching the consulate by blocking several roads with empty containers.

The US Consulate declared a holiday for its employees to avert untoward incidents.

Students of Islamia College and Punjab University too organised demonstrations against the film.

Journalists under the banner of the Punjab Union of Journalists organised a rally at Davis Road.

At most protests, people shouted slogans against the US and demanded the expulsion of the US envoy.

Jamaat-e-Islami leaders warned that they would not stop their protests till the makers of the film are hanged.

Traffic was affected on all main roads of Lahore, causing great inconvenience for motorists.

Protests were also reported from Multan, RahimYar Khan and Chakwal in Punjab, Dera Ismail Khan and Shangla in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Sukkur, Karachi, Larkana, Dadu and Mirpur Khas in Sindh, and Mirpur and Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

At many places, students, traders and members of religious groups joined the protests. Students boycotted classes and markets and schools were closed at some places.

So far, two persons have died in violent protests against the film in the southern port city of Karachi and Dir region in the northwest.

Dozens more have been injured in the protests, mostly organised by religious and hardline groups like the Jamaat-e-Islami.