KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: Days after the US Embassy in Islamabad had issued a countrywide security alert, religious parties held protests in Karachi and Islamabad on Sunday against the assassination of Iran’s Major General Qasem Soleimani in a US airstrike.
Major General Soleimani was the head of the elite Quds Force and was killed early on Friday when a US airstrike hit his convoy at Baghdad airport.
In Karachi, Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM), Imamia Students Organisation (ISO) and other religious and political groups held a rally that began at 3 pm at the Fawwara Chowk and marched towards the US Consulate in the city. The protesters carried portraits of the slain general along with posters inscribed with “Down With USA!”
Addressing the protesters, Allama Shahenshah Hussain of the Shia Ulema Council, said that a small group would go forward to the consulate premises and present a memorandum.
Hussain, in his address, appreciated the statement by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor who had assured the nation that Pakistan’s land will not be used for action against any neighbouring country.
MWM chief Allama Hasan Zafar Naqvi also addressed the rally. “Every Pakistani, down to the last child, is Qasem Soleimani,” he declared. “We will not allow the US to succeed in perpetrating their crimes on Pakistani soil,” he added.
Paying homage to Soleimani, he said that the slain general had united Iraq’s Shia and Sunni populations against the US. He said the existence of America and Israel pose a danger to humanity. “Soleimani was the commander of the army of Islam,” he said. He also paid tribute to the Pakistan media for highlighting Soleimani’s role.
Stringent security measures were taken due to the protest rally. The roads leading to the US Consulate, including Moulvi Tameezuddin Khan Road, Mai Kolachi Bypass, Aiwan-e-Saddar road and Ziauddin Road in the red zone were closed by the city’s traffic police. The traffic police advised the commuters, from Tower to Boat Basin and PIDC to Tower, to use the I I Chundrigar Road for their travel.
Meanwhile, in Islamabad, a rally organised by the MWM and ISO, began at the Islamabad Press Club and culminated at the D-Chowk. The protesters called for unity among all Muslims as they marched.
The rally led by Allama Syed Ali Rizvi was attended by women and children in large numbers. Islamabad’s Deputy Mayor Zeeshan Naqvi also attended the rally.
Protesters chanted “Death to America” and “America is a terrorist”.
Some said that “an attack on General Qasem Soleimani is an attack on the Islamic world” while others equated the move to “international terrorism” because America “wishes to divide the Muslim Ummah and enslave the whole world”.
Addressing the rally, Rizvi said that Soleimani had been “martyred by those who profit from Daesh and Al Qaeda”. He said that the US was a “cheating and untrustworthy” country. “The Islamic world’s security and dignity is in keeping its distance from them.”
“History bears witness that the US has left no stone unturned when it comes to harming the Muslim Ummah,” said Rizvi.
He said that the government will have to assure the people that Pakistan’s soil will not be used against neighbouring Muslim countries like in the past. “The whole nation wishes to see itself freed from external pressure,” he added.
The religious leader said that Pakistan will have to play its role in maintaining the security and dignity of the Muslim Ummah.
Major General Soleimani was killed on Friday morning in a US strike on Baghdad’s international airport, in a dramatic escalation of tensions between the two countries.