The Straits Times
Published on Sep 24, 2012

Pakistan minister's party disowns film-maker bounty


PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) - A Pakistani political party on Monday distanced itself from a reward offered by one of its ministers for the death of a film-maker who produced an anti-Islam film.

The Awami National Party (ANP), which is part of the ruling coalition, said it rejected the US$100,000 (S$122,543) bounty offered by Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour to anyone who killed the person behind the Innocence Of Muslims film.

Mr Bilour invited members of the Taleban and Al-Qaeda to take part in the "noble deed", and said given the chance he would personally kill the maker of the movie, which has sparked furious protests across the Muslim world.

"The statement given by Mr Bilour has been rejected by the party because we believe in non-violence and our party is known for that," ANP spokesman Senator Zahid Khan told AFP. "This kind of thing is beyond our imagination because it will end the difference between ANP and extremists."

Consultations on the matter were in progress, Mr Khan said, but they were being hampered because party leader Asfandyar Wali Khan has gone to the United States to take part in the UN General Assembly.

The ANP is a secular party and holds power in Pakistan's deeply conservative north-western province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where anti-Western feeling runs high and the party is under pressure from religious hardliners.

A general election is looming in the coming months, and analysts say Mr Bilour's move may have been a misguided attempt to outflank the religious right on an issue that has triggered visceral public anger in Pakistan.

The federal government on Sunday rejected the reward, which Mr Bilour announced a day after nationwide Friday protests against the film descended into violence and looting which left 21 dead and more than 200 injured.

The US State Department also weighed in on Sunday, with an official calling Mr Bilour's remarks "inflammatory and inappropriate".