By Syed Raza Hassan
KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) – Ten of thousands of Pakistanis marched in support of the Palestinians on Friday as a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas took effect after 11 days of fighting, but a bomb blast killed six people at one rally in southwest Pakistan.
Shrugging aside restrictions linked to the coronavirus pandemic, people waved Palestinian flags and placards that read “All unite to free Palestine” and “Boycott Israel” at the rallies, many organised by Islamic groups, in a number of cities across the country including Islamabad and Karachi.
In Peshawar demonstrators burned Israeli flags.
The bomb blast, which also wounded 13 people, occurred in the city of Chaman in the province of Balochistan near the Afghan border, the region’s police chief, Jafar Khan, told Reuters by telephone.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Police in Karachi halted a rally organised by the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami when demonstrators trying to march on the U.S. consulate in the port city caused a massive traffic jam.
“The Palestinian issue is more of a humanitarian issue than a religious issue. You don’t need to be a Muslim or a Christian to condemn whatever is going on in Palestine. You need to be a human being to condemn it,” Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain told foreign media on Friday.
Pakistan, a largely Muslim country, has no diplomatic relations with Israel.
Prime Minister Imran Khan applauded Friday’s rallies across Pakistan and said international public opinion was tilting in favour of the Palestinians.
The foreign ministry said in a tweet that Pakistan continued to believe that peace in the Middle East hinged on the creation of a viable, independent and contiguous Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Both Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group that governs Gaza, claimed victory on Friday as the ceasefire, mediated by Egypt, came into force.
(Additional Reporting by Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam; Editing by Gareth Jones)