Pakistan Disowns Minister’s Bounty for Anti-Islam Film Maker

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari
Asif Ali Zardari, president of Pakistan, speaks next to a portrait of his late-wife Benazir Bhutto. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

The government of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and its key coalition partner repudiated a minister’s offer of a bounty for the killing of the maker of an anti-Islam film that triggered deadly riots.

Federal Railway Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, a businessman, on Sept. 22 told reporters in Pakistan that he would pay $100,000 to have the U.S.-based movie producer killed, according local media including the Dawn newspaper.

These are his “personal views and had nothing to do with the official policy of the government,” the country’s foreign ministry said today in a statement. The threat isn’t in keeping with the party’s policy of non-violence, Zahid Khan, a spokesman for Bilour’s Awami National Party or ANP, said in a phone interview from Peshawar yesterday.

Bilour is a senior leader of the ethnic Pashtun party, whose lawmakers provide crucial support for the federal administration led by Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party. The ANP also heads the coalition government in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa which straddles tribal regions home to Taliban and al-Qaeda linked militants.

The California man associated with the online movie clip has been questioned by U.S. authorities. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula is also being sued by an actress who says she was misled into participating in the film.

Church Attack

Bilour didn’t answer calls made to his mobile phone today. The State Department condemned the bounty offer, calling it “inflammatory and inappropriate,” according to a report on the website of the British Broadcasting Corp.

The American-made film has sparked deadly violence across the Muslim world, including in Pakistan where 21 people were killed in violence on Sept. 21. Pakistan’s government declared the day a national holiday so that people could join protests which it said should be peaceful.

Enraged mobs torched several movie theaters, banks, food outlets and damaged or destroyed downtown shops in several cities. In the northwestern town of Mardan, a group of protesters ransacked and later burned a church, an act Zardari described as “unfortunate and reprehensible.”

A 14-minute trailer for the film posted on Google Inc.’s YouTube website shows a fictional attack by Muslims on a Christian family, followed by an account of the origins of Islam depicting Mohammed as a womanizer.

Anti-American sentiment has been running high in Pakistan after years of U.S. drone missile attacks, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani town last year and other confrontations.

Pakistani television channels have aired an advertisement last week by the State Department with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton disavowing the film.

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