Pakistani police used tear gas to disperse protesters who shouted “Death to America” in outrage after a US court jailed a woman scientist for 86 years for attempting to murder US officers.
In a case that has been condemned across the nuclear-armed Muslim nation of 167 million, the government said it would petition Washington to secure the mother of three’s repatriation on humanitarian grounds.
A New York court found Aafia Siddiqui, the once brilliant scientist dubbed “Lady Qaeda” by the US tabloids, guilty of the attempted murder of US military officers in Afghanistan in 2008 – five years after she disappeared.
In Karachi, Siddiqui’s home town and Pakistan’s largest city, police fired tear gas shells to prevent scores of people from marching on the US consulate at the behest of the youth wing of Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI).
The protesters shouted “Death to America”, “Allahu akbar” (God is greater), “Free Aafia Siddiqui” and “Down with the US system of justice”.
The last one — that’s ultimately what it’s all about, isn’t it?
Hundreds more took to the streets in Pakistan’s second largest city of Lahore. Cricket hero-turned-politician Imran Khan led a rally to condemn the verdict as “unethical and inhuman”, an AFP reporter said.
They condemned President Asif Ali Zardari and Khan, who heads the party Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (Pakistan Movement for Justice), warned that the verdict could fan anti-Americanism across Pakistan and the Muslim world.
Hundreds more rallied under the auspices of the JI in Lahore, shouting “Go America Go, Free Aafia Siddiqui”.
“The judgement against Siddiqui is based on anti-Muslim policy of the US,” said Liaqat Baluch, the senior JI leader who led the rally.
In Islamabad, police stopped dozens of Islamic students from marching on the US embassy to hand over a protest note. The crowd shouted “Crush America”, “Siddiqui is our sister” and “We will bring her back”.
Dozens of lawyers and activists blocked traffic in the central city of Multan, shouting “Down with America” and setting fire to an effigy of President Barack Obama and former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, an AFP reporter said….