The Pakistan government has distanced itself from a $US100,000 (Rs 53 lakh) bounty offered by a cabinet minister for the death of the maker of an anti-Islam film that has sparked protests across the Muslim world.
Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour invited members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda to take part in the ‘noble deed’, and said given the chance he would kill the filmmaker with his own hands.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf rejected Bilour’s comments, made on Saturday, a day after angry protests across Pakistan against the Innocence of Muslims left 21 people dead and more than 200 injured.
“This is not government policy. We completely dissociate (ourselves) from this,” the spokesman said. More than 50 people have died in protests and attacks around the world linked to the low-budget film, which mocks Islam and the prophet Mohammed, since the first demonstrations on September 11.
Nationwide rallies against the movie mobilised more than 45,000 people on Friday, which the government had made a public holiday to allow people to protest, although numbers were comparatively low in a country of 180 million people.
Police used tear gas and live rounds to fight back protesters, as they attacked shops and cinemas in Karachi and Peshawar and tried to reach Western embassies in the capital, Islamabad.
Bilour, a member of the Awami National Party (ANP), a key partner in the fragile coalition government led by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) announced the bounty on Saturday.
“I announce today that this blasphemer who has abused the holy prophet, if somebody will kill him, I will give that person a prize of $100,000,” he told reporters.
“I also announce that if the government hands this person over to me, my heart says I will finish him with my own hands and then they can hang me.”
Bilour later made it clear that he was speaking for himself and not as a government representative. Asked whether he was concerned about committing or condoning a crime as a government official, Bilour said, “I am a Muslim first, then a government representative.”
The producer of the film, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, is reported to be a 55-year-old Egyptian Copt based in Los Angeles and currently out on parole.
Bangladesh shuts down for film protests
A coalition of 12 Islamist groups in Dhaka enforced a nationwide shutdown to protest the movie amid tight security on Sunday.