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Interview: Pakistani Minister 'Left With No Option' But To Offer Bounty For Filmmaker

Pakistani Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour
Pakistani Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour
Pakistan's Federal Minister for Railways Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bilour caused a stir this week when he offered a $100,000 reward for the death of the producer of "Innocence of Muslims," a film denigrating Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Bilour told reporters that he would pay the bounty out of his own pockets. The announcement surprised many because Bilour's Awami National Party is actually a proponent of nonviolence. The minister spoke with RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal on why he posted the bounty and how he feels about the fact that the Taliban took his name off a hit list of possible targets soon after he made his announcement.

RFE/RL: The Taliban took your name off their hit list after your bounty announcement. You must be happy?

Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bilour: I issued that [bounty] statement out of respect for the Prophet. The Taliban expressed pleasure over that and said they had removed my name from the hit list. But the Taliban's statement give me no happiness, because as we are followers of different ideologies. It does not mean that I will never die just because the Taliban removed me from their hit list.

RFE/RL: Your party supports an ideology of nonviolence. What made you issue such a statement?

Bilour: I was seeing the situation as a serious disaster. I was afraid that, if this trend persisted, mosques would be attacked wherever Muslims were a minority and this would lead to massive destruction. So to avoid a clash between Muslims and Christians in the future, we called for a law [to prevent a repetition of such incidents]. Since they [the United States] are not going to pass any such laws, we were left with no other option but [to offer this bounty].

RFE/RL: It is generally believed that you issued the statement for political gain ahead of upcoming general elections...

Bilour: I issued this statement because of my love for the Prophet and for the sake of my faith. And I have nothing to do with the people who looted shops, destroyed offices, and burnt private vehicles during the Friday protests [on September 21]. As far as I am concerned, I’m ready to go as far as it takes to save the honor of my Prophet.

RFE/RL: What legal and constitutional process would you pursue to register a protest against films like "Innocence of Muslims?"

Bilour: The legal and constitutional solution is what I said and what [Pakistani] President [Asif Ali] Zardari said at the [UN] General Assembly: that is to pass a law that would prevent anyone from saying anything bad about our Prophet.