The government of Pakistan has condemned a cabinet minister for his offer of a reward for killing the US-based producer believed to be behind an anti-Islam video.
Islamabad’s announcement comes after Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, the federal railways minister, offered a $100,000 bounty on Saturday for the death of the California-based maker of the video.
Bilour also invited members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda to take part in what he called a “noble deed”.
“I announce today that this blasphemer, who has abused the holy prophet – if somebody will kill him, I will give that person a prize of $100,000,” he said.
A spokesperson for Raja Pervez Ashraf, Pakistan’s prime minister, rejected Bilour’s comments.
“This is not government policy. We completely dissociate [ourselves] from this,” Shafqat Jalil told the AFP news agency on Sunday.
Rubina Khalid, a senator with the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, questioned the minister’s motives. “We have never seen Mr Bilour taking any active part in any religious activities,” she told Al Jazeera.
“We have got nothing to do with it [the comments], we all condemn it, and I think strict action should be taken against him,” she said.
Meanwhile, a Pakistani cleric has said that he is willing to pay $105,000 to the person who kills the filmmaker, while another said that a businessman in the southern city of Karachi would be willing to offer as much as $1.27 million for the man’s death, the AFP news agency reported.
Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said that Bilour was acting on his own and his bounty offer should not be taken as an official government action.
“Not many people have taken him seriously in the past,” our correspondent said. “His family are industrialists. They own cinemas, finance the ANP and partner with the PPP.”
“But let’s not forget that this is a minister who has destroyed the Pakistani railways,” Hyder said.
|Ghulam Ahmed Bilour also invited members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda to take part in the ‘noble deed’ [AFP]|
Bilour is considered by some in Pakistan to be partially responsible for the deteriorating situation of the country’s rail lines.
The alleged producer of the film, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, is a 55-year-old Egyptian-American Copt and convicted fraudster, out on parole, who lives in Los Angeles.
Bilour’s announcement came after more than 5,000 protesters, including hundreds of women, marched towards the parliament in Islamabad on Saturday, chanting: “We love our Holy Prophet” and “Punishment for those who humiliated our Prophet”.
About 500 people from the group Jamaat-ud-Dawa also staged a protest in front of the US consulate in the eastern city of Lahore, chanting: “The US deserves only one remedy – jihad, jihad.”
The protests were peaceful, in contrast to the previous day’s demonstrations.
On Sunday, about 200 members of the country’s minority Christian community staged a rally in Islamabad condemning the movie. They were led by Paul Bhatti, the Prime Minister’s advisor on minority affairs.
The marchers carried the placards “We denounce the blasphemous movie” and “We express complete solidarity with Muslims in Pakistan.”
The protesters, including women, also condemned an attack on a church in the northwestern city of Mardan during violence on Friday.
Peaceful demonstrations against the anti-Islam video continued in other locations on Sunday. In Hong Kong, 3,000 people gathered outside the US consulate, according to police and organisers.
Meanwhile, in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, schools, shops and offices were closed as opposition parties enforced a nationwide strike to protest against the video.
|Pakistani journalist Anwar Iqbal discusses the minister’s comments|
Thousands of police patrolled the city, and roads were quiet across the country on what is normally a business day.
Authorities in Bangladesh had on Saturday fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters who defied a ban on demonstrations.
The clash erupted after the protesters from an alliance of 12 Islamist parties tried to hold a rally in central Dhaka despite a 24-hour ban on gathers in the area, Dhaka police spokesman Masudur Rahman told the AFP news agency.
“They defied our ban and tried to stage a protest against the anti-Islam film. At one stage, they started pelting stones at policemen,” he said, adding that police arrested several people including some leaders of the group.
In Nigeria, thousands of people gathered to demonstrate against the video in the northern city of Kano on Saturday.
They called on the US to stop insulting Muslims and chanted “Death to America, death to Israel and death to the enemies of Islam.”
Police were deployed to the rally, which was organised by the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, a pro-Iranian group that adheres to the Shia branch of Islam.
‘Outrageous and intolerable’
The low budget film, Innocence of Muslims, has incited a wave of bloody anti-US violence in cities in more than 20 countries.
In Srinagar city of India’s northern Jammu and Kashmir state, hundreds of burqa-clad young girls criticised the film, shouting slogans against the US and the film’s maker in a protest on Saturday.
The protest was held inside a primary school, where girls wearing black, white or green burqas held placards and banners, shouted slogans in praise of the Prophet Muhammad and against the US.
“This movie that has been made is outrageous and intolerable,” said Firdousa, one of the protesters.
Anger has also been stoked by the publication in a French magazine of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday published cartoons portraying Muhammad naked, further fuelling earlier protests.
About 500 Palestinians on Saturday staged what banners proclaimed a “Festival of the followers of Muhammad” in east Jerusalem in protest against the French cartoons and the anti-Islam film.
Police did not intervene in the rally, which included a marching band, according to an AFP journalist.