Shots Fired During Pakistani Protests Against Charlie Hebdo

Karachi Protests
A supporter of Jamiat Taliba Islam (JTI), student wing of Jamat Islami (JI), throws stones at policemen during a demonstration against satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo, which featured a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad as the cover of its first edition since an attack by Islamist gunmen, while marching towards the French Consulate in Karachi January 16, 2015. AKHTAR SOOMRO/REUTERS

A protest in Karachi, Pakistan turned violent today when those demonstrating against Charlie Hebdo's depiction of the prophet Muhammad clashed with police outside the French consulate. The police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd, Reuters reported.

A spokesperson from a Karachi hospital told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that two protesters had been injured, as well as AFP photographer Asif Hassan: "The bullet struck his lung, and passed through his chest. He is out of immediate danger," said Dr. Seemi Jamali, a spokesperson for the hospital. Senior police official Abdul Khaliq Sheikh later told AFP that it was the protesters who had shot at the security forces: "There were around 350 protesters who wanted to go to the French consulate and when the police tried to stop them they started firing at the police."

The protests are part of a larger 'black day', organised and promoted by a group of Pakistan's Islamic leaders, in objection to the publication of images of the prophet in the French magazine. Described as a "countrywide protest movement against the publication," by Pakistani news outlet Dawn , the protests were called for by Tehreek-Hurmat-e-Rasool, an umbrella group consisting of over 20 of Pakistan's most influential Muslim groups.

Tehreek-Hurmat-e-Rasool roughly translates as: 'The movement for safeguarding the sanctity of the messenger'.

The leader of the group, Maulana Amir Hamza said that if so many European countries could unite in support of Charlie Hebdo, all 57 Muslim countries in the world should also unite to 'safeguard the sanctity of the Prophet'. He called on the leaders of Muslim countries across the world to demand the introduction of an international law against depictions of the Prophet.

There are also reports that Pakistani religious leaders have said that journalists responsible for publishing the caricatures should stand trial in the International Court of Justice for "their crime against billions of Muslims of the world."

Only yesterday, demonstrators in the city of Lahore, accompanied by lawmakers, carried banners with slogans calling for the deaths of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists as they protested outside parliament. The Pakistani religious affairs minister Sardar Mohammad Yousuf said that a symbolic resolution had been passed by the political parties, condemning the publication of the cartoons.

Previous depictions of the prophet in the West have lead to widespread anger in Muslim communities. In 2008, three men were arrested by Danish police for plotting to murder cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard who drew a picture of the prophet which was published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

Kamran Matin, a senior lecturer in International Relations at the University of Sussex and a specialist on Islamic politics said that he does not think these recent events "will affect Pakistan's strategic relation with the US or its allies."