ISLAMABAD (AFP) -President Pervez Musharraf has strongly condemned the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed as hundreds of protesters torched Danish and French flags for a second day.
Senators in the upper house of the country`s parliament also passed a unanimous resolution denouncing the drawings and made fervent speeches calling for economic and political sanctions.Musharraf said the cartoons -- first published in a Danish newspaper in September and then in the past week by other dailies -- would add to tensions between the Muslim world and the West.
"They have inflamed our sentiments and in the strongest terms I condemn it," the official Associated Press of Pakistan quoted Musharraf as saying at his military office in the garrison city of Rawalpindi near the capital.
"Any educated person who has any understanding of the situation around the world would not like to hurt the sentiments of the Muslims," he said.
Earlier the senate`s motion slamming the cartoons said the "vicious, outrageous and provocative campaign cannot be justified in the name of freedom of expression or of the press."
Some 400 protesters from the majority Sunni and minority Shiite Muslim communities held separate protests in the capital Islamabad demanding the expulsion of the Danish ambassador.
In the southern city of Karachi around 400 bearded madrassa students and supporters of hardline Islamic parties shouted "Death to Denmark, France and Norway" outside Pakistan`s biggest mosque after traditional Friday prayers.
"This is not merely a cartoon but reflects the infidels` hatred of Muslims and Islam," said Merajul Huda, the Karachi chief of the main Jamaat-i-Islami religious party.
Copenhagen altered its travel advisory for Pakistan in November after it said an official from Jamaat-e-Islami`s youth wing had announced a reward for the deaths of the cartoonists. The party denied doing so.
Around 200 demonstrators gathered in the eastern city of Lahore and burned flags of Denmark, Norway and France and called for an economic boycott of the three countries.
"The publication of contemptuous and blasphemous cartoons of the Holy Prophet in a Danish newspaper is a crusade against Muslims of the world," local radical leader Engineer Saleemullah Khan told the gathering.
Angry protesters in the central city of Multan also burned an effigy of Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and vowed to step up their protests.
"We can lay down our lives for our Prophet and we would not let anyone publish blasphemous cartoons or ridicule Islam," Islamic leader Mufti Hidayat ullah Pasroori said.
Prayer leaders in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta condemned the cartoons in Friday`s sermons, Abdul Sattar, a spokesman of the pro-Taliban Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam party, told AFP.
Sattar said that a draft of the parliamentary resolution was circulated in nearly 70 mosques in Quetta where hundreds of people approved it by raising their hands.