Pakistan’s principal Islamist parties have called for massive anti-U.S. demonstrations to protest the “unauthorized” killing of Osama bin Laden by American commando units.
The mainstream Jamat-e-Islami (Islamic Party) religious party has long resented the Pakistani government’s support for the U.S. war in Afghanistan and now accuses Washington of violating Pakistan’s sovereignty.
US Navy SEALs stormed a military compound in the northern Pakistani town of Abbottabad to kill Osama without informing Pakistani officials.
“Even if there was any sympathy for the Americans, that would dissipate after the way they crushed and violated our sovereignty and our independence,” Syed Munawar Hasan, the president of Jamat-e-Islami, told Reuters.
“We have appealed to everyone to hold peaceful demonstrations on Friday on a very large scale. Our first demand is Pakistan ... should withdraw from the war on terror.”
Jamat-e-Islami was formerly a member of the country’s ruling coalition government, but some extremist has also been linked to the massacre in Mumbai, India in 2008, which killed more than 160 people.
Meanwhile, more radical Islamic groups, including Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Lashkar-e-Taiba have already gathered to mourn Osama and declare him a martyr.
However, analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi told Dawn, an English language newspaper, that extremist Islamic groups do not have widespread popularity among ordinary Pakistanis.
“I don’t think they [religious parties] will attract big crowds in these rallies. These protests will unlikely put any big pressure on the government to change its course,” he said.
Although the reaction to the killing among the general Pakistani population has been largely mild, some foreign aid agencies and diplomatic missions have taken measures to avoid the chances of reprisal attacks. Security has also been beefed up around government offices in Islamabad and certain foreign embassies.
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office warned UK nationals in Pakistan: “You should be aware of a possible increase in threat throughout the country. This may include an increased threat against westerners,” it said.
However, most Pakistanis are likely too concerned about their daily economic hardships to worry about such exterior events.
“There is no electricity, no petrol, with rising inflation, making ends meet is becoming challenging every single day,” one resident of Karachi told Dawn.
“If our country wasn’t mired with economic hardships at this point, perhaps we would demand more answers from the government or the United States, but as of now, I have bigger problems.”