KARACHI–At least three people were injured Friday in clashes between anti-Charlie Hebdo protesters and police outside the French consulate in Pakistan’s Karachi, officials said, including an AFP photographer who was shot in the back. The protest by the student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami religious party was one of several staged across Pakistan by Islamist groups after Friday prayers against the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad by the French satirical magazine. ��Three injured were brought to the hospital, two were minor injuries and one photographer was serious,�� said Doctor Seemi Jamali, a spokeswoman for the city’s main Jinnah hospital, referring to AFP’s Asif Hassan, 38. ��The bullet struck his lung, and passed through his chest. He is out of immediate danger and he has spoken to his colleagues,�� she continued, adding that Hassan was hit by what appeared to be a live round. The others injured were a policeman and a local TV cameraman who were discharged after receiving first aid. Senior police official Abdul Khaliq Sheikh told AFP that the violence began when some 350 protesters were prevented by police from approaching the French consulate, in the southern part of the sprawling metropolis. Police said Hassan and the other journalist did not appear to have been deliberately targeted but were caught in crossfire when protesters shot at the police. A witness at the scene backed the police account, though the religious party blamed the police. ��Police are responsible for those wounded during the protest including Asif Hasan,�� said Hafiz Bilal Ramzan, head of the party’s student wing. French Flags Burned
The rallies come a day after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif led parliament in condemning the cartoons in Charlie Hebdo, whose Paris offices were attacked last week by Islamist gunmen who killed 12 people. The newspaper was known for its cartoons making fun of Mohammed, and its defiant post-attack issue released Wednesday again featured the prophet on its front page.
In Pakistan, thousands of religious party activists turned out nationwide, including followers of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the charitable wing of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group that masterminded attacks on Mumbai in 2008. The group has come under the spotlight since Pakistan vowed to crack down on militant groups of all hues, including those considered friendly to its interests, following a Taliban school massacre last month that left 150 people dead. The Jamat-ul-Ahrar faction of the Pakistani Taliban earlier issued a statement lauding the two brothers who carried out the Charlie Hebdo assault, saying ��they freed the earth from the existence of filthy blasphemers.�� ��O enemies of Islam beware! Every youth of this Ummah (Muslim community) is willing to sacrifice himself on the honor of (the) Prophet,�� said the statement, which was sent via email by spokesman Ehsanullan Ehsan. Protesters in the northwest city of Peshawar and central Multan burnt French flags on the streets, while rallies were also held in the capital Islamabad and the eastern city of Lahore. In addition to protests by religious parties, lawyers have vowed to boycott court proceedings to show their displeasure over the sketches.