KARACHI - In some parts of the Muslim
world, anger over the publication of blasphemous
cartoons might be cooled by burning a few
diplomatic buildings or setting fire to Israeli
flags or effigies of US President George W Bush.
But in the region that starts on the Arabian Sea
shores of the Pakistani port city of Karachi and
ends in the landlocked areas of Afghanistan,
passions will not be as easily tempered.
With the Taliban and al-Qaeda gearing for
a summer offensive in Afghanistan, using
Pakistan's tribal area of North Waziristan as a
base, they want to increase
their political mass support once they ramp up
their activities on the guerrilla front.
At the same time, they are looking for
fresh blood from the Afghan refugee camps in
Pakistan and Pakistani jihadi diehards to join
Incidents such as the
publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet
Mohammed in an unsavory light play right into the
hands of al-Qaeda and the Taliban in fanning the
already simmering embers of discontent among the
On Monday, thousands of
demonstrators gathered all over Afghanistan, from
northern Takhar province to Kandahar in the south.
Afghan security forces opened fire in some places,
leaving at least four dead.
The worst of
the violence was outside Bagram, the main US base
in Afghanistan, with Afghan police firing on some
2,000 protesters as they tried to break into the
heavily guarded facility, Kabir Ahmed, the local
government chief, was quoted as saying. Two
demonstrators were killed and five were injured,
while eight police were also hurt, he said. No US
troops were involved in the clashes, the military
Afghan police also fired on
protesters in the central city of Mihtarlam after
a man in the crowd shot at them and others threw
stones and knives. Two protesters were killed, and
three other people were wounded, including two
police, officials said. The demonstrators burned
tires and threw stones at government offices.
On Tuesday, in the southern city of
Kandahar, a suicide bomber attacked a guard post
outside the police headquarters, killing 13 people
and wounding 11, officials said. The incident
comes ahead of a major offensive - including
suicide attacks - planned by the Taliban this
"It is a critical situation and is
likely to have a special impact on Afghanistan,"
said a newly elected member of the Afghan
parliament, Sibghatullah Zaki, speaking to Asia
Times Online by telephone from Kabul.
was elected from northern Takhar province and is
ethnically Uzbek. He is also a top leader of the
Jumbesh Milli Afghanistan led by General Abdul
Rasheed Dostum. "On the one hand, the West is
trying to fight with terror, and on the other hand
this sort of action promotes terrorism," Zaki
Zaki said that those who published
the cartoons were playing with the sentiments of
1.4 billion Muslims. "Our religion teaches us
tolerance, and all prophets before Mohammed have a
status in Islam. We believe that before the end of
time Essa [Jesus] will re-emerge and Muslims will
be part of his army. On the other hand,
publication of blasphemous caricatures creates
suspicion that the West does not respect Islam.
"There are 1.4 billion Muslims in the
world. The majority of them condemn terrorism.
There are few who believe in terror tactics.
However, publication of such caricatures shows
that they consider all Muslims as terrorists,"
"I tell you, this will have a
direct impact on Afghanistan's socio-political
situation. There are already riots from north to
south. In my province, Takhar, people attacked the
offices of the governor and the mayor and
ransacked everything. There [were] a huge
demonstration and riots in Laghman. This indicates
the direction in which the common Afghan thinks,"
In Karachi, in a unanimous
decision by all trade bodies, Pakistan's financial
hub was closed on Tuesday in protest against the
cartoons. The president of the Federation of
Pakistani Chambers of Commerce and Industries has
called for a boycott of Danish products, as the
cartoons first appeared in a Danish newspaper.
Syed Saleem Shahzad is Bureau
Chief, Pakistan Asia Times Online. He can be
reached at [email protected].
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