Over a week after worldwide riots and protests over the cartoons desecrating the Prophet Muhammad started to die down, the good Muslims of Pakistan realized that it was time to do something. Not something to resolve the issue and prevent something like this from happening again, but just something. Anything.
Though life seemed to go on as usual around the capital, it was shocking to learn what happened in Lahore and Peshawar. Three people died and dozens were injured due to people who had nothing better to do. News footage showed hordes of rioters burning and breaking anything and everything in their path. Lots of school students (not those of religious madrasas, as you might expect) were shown rampaging, breaking cars and traffic lights, and looking quite pleased. Hardly the image of upset devotees trying to get their peaceful and valid message heard.
The rampaging resulted in damage to a number of banks, mostly Pakistani ones, offices of Telenor, the Norwegian mobile company, sign boards, shops, buses. Even a hospital wasn’t spared and was set on fire.
Nobody has claimed responsibility for all this. Political parties, student organizations and religious schools all deny any involvement. Since most of the rioters were either school students or the poor, who really is responsible for rallying and inciting them is anybody’s guess. As usual, a number of theories have sprung up, some quite plausible, some ridiculous. The most popular one is that the whole thing (from publishing the cartoons to inciting riots and attacks) was meticulously preplanned to further the divide between Muslims and the West and to tarnish Islam’s image even further.
The consequences of all this on Pakistan could be disastrous with investors pulling out of the country and Pakistanis suffering from a negative image, but we may be safe yet. Despite all this, it’s encouraging to see that the stock market is maintaining it’s recent, marvelous rally. New oil and gas discoveries, in the same region as the riots, still have enough weight to counter the negative effects.
Though further protests are still planned by religious and political organizations, they have promised to keep them peaceful and not let the situation get out of hand.