Anti-US Qur'an protests spread to Pakistan
Islamabad - Hundreds of Pakistani religious and hardline activists took to the streets on Friday to demonstrate against the burning of Qur'an at a US airbase in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Demonstrators shouted "death to America" and called on Pakistani leaders, US allies in the Afghan war, to resign with rallies organised in Islamabad, Karachi and the central shrine city of Multan, AFP reporters said.
In Islamabad, the general secretary of the pro-Taliban Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) demanded that the Islamic world should review its relations with the United States.
"We will not allow Americans to ridicule our religion and our holy Qur'an," Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri told the crowd, asking the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) to convene a special session to condemn the incident.
The foreign ministry strongly condemned the burning, stressing that "utterly irresponsible and reprehensible things" do not happen again.
"On behalf of the government and the people of Pakistan, we condemn in strongest possible terms the desecration of Holy Qur'an" in Afghanistan," spokesperson Abdul Basit told reporters.
In Karachi, hundreds of activists of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, blacklisted as a terror organisation for associations with al-Qaeda, chanted "Death to America".
Apology not accepted
"There is just one remedy for America - jihad and only jihad," the crowd shouted. "Death to America, death to America's friends," echoed slogans.
The demonstrators were carrying flags with black and white stripes and inscribed with Qur'anic verses.
They also held up banners, one of which said: "The defeated Americans are bound to bite dust in their war against Allah and His Book."
President Barack Obama was on Thursday forced to apologise for the incident, which the Afghan presidency blamed on a US officer at the Bagram airbase.
"We don't accept Obama's apology. The Muslims don't accept his apology, as it is nothing but a farce," said Naveed Qamar, the head of JuD in Karachi. "The Americans are deliberately provoking us through shameless sins," he added.
"It is now up to our rulers whether they continue to be slaves of America or become slaves of our beloved prophet."
In Afghanistan, at least 15 people, including two American soldiers, have been killed in three days of furious anti-US protests.
Pakistan's relationship with the United States drastically deteriorated last year over the covert American raid that killed Osama bin Laden and US air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the Afghan border.