Senators differ over Quran burning protests
KABUL (PAN): Some Meshrano Jirga, upper house, members on Sunday asked the people to resort to violent demonstrations against the alleged burning of the Quran, but others called for exercising restraint.
The alleged blasphemous act at the hands of US troops at the Bagram airfield in central Parwan province has sparked deadly protests that entered a sixth consecutive day on Sunday, leaving dozens of people dead and wounded.
Deputy Senate Chairman Mohammad Alam Ezedyar, who presided over today’s session, strongly condemned the desecration, asking the US to hand the blasphemers over to the Afghan government so that they could be punished publicly.
He urged protestors to stay calm during because anti-government elements were out to take advantage of the situation.
Senator Bismillah Afghanmal, who represents southern Kandahar province, said: “I strongly condemn this act, not the first of its kind.” The lawmaker, however, appealed to protestors to remain peaceful and avoid creating problems.
Minority Sikh legislator Anar Kali Hunaryar also condemned the burning of the Quran by US troops, saying no one had the right to insult sacred places and books of a community. She favoured peaceful protests.
Since Tuesday, 31 people, including two American soldiers and an Afghan policeman, have been killed and nearly 260 others injured during a storm of anti-US protests across the country.
But a lawmaker from southern Zabul province, Mohammad Hassan Hotak, believed the deaths were still few, given the gravity of the crime. “Don’t call for peaceful protests,” he told his colleagues.
“My demand is that protests should go on for a month,” he said, adding a resort to violence was needed under such circumstances. “We should show infidels that we can defend our religion,” Hotak said.
He went on to reject apologies from top US officials, including President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, as inadequate. The soldiers who burnt the Quran should be tried in public, he demanded.
Echoing his remarks, another senator from northern Samangan province said violence at rallies was insufficient, and that keeping a mum or staging peaceful protests would yield no results.
Mohammad Asif Azeemi added: “There should be violence against unethical Americans, who have desecrated the holy book several times. For defending the Quran, my life has no worth.”
Senator Fauzia Sadat also lent her voice to calls from the two senators, saying the people had the right to express their feelings in whatever way they wanted to.
President Hamid Karzai has urged the Afghans to stay calm during protests. His statement was welcomed by his US counterpart Barack Obama.
“We welcome President Karzai's statement encouraging peaceful expressions, and his call for dialogue and calm,” the White House said in a statement, following a telephonic conversation between Obama and ISAF Commander Gen. John R Allen.
Download “Pajhwok” mobile App, on your smartphone to read and access latest news, features, interviews, videos and photos about Afghanistan.