20 Dead in Pakistan Protests
Sanctioned day of rage gets violent, as US airs ads condemning video
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 21, 2012 7:50 AM CDT
Updated Sep 21, 2012 5:03 PM CDT
Pakistani protesters shout anti-U.S. slogans at a rally in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Sept. 21, 2012.   (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)
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(Newser) – Pakistan's government declared today a national holiday specifically so people could go out and protest The Innocence of Muslims—but that official sanction hasn't kept things calm. Demonstrations in Karachi and Peshawar left 20 dead and more than 100 injured as protesters torched movie houses, police cars, and American fast food restaurants, the Washington Post reports. Among the dead were two policemen in Karachi and a cable channel's employee in Peshawar. In Karachi, troops and police were able to stop the crowd—estimated by some at 15,000—from reaching the US consulate.

Government critics tell Reuters this "day of Love for the Prophet" is an attempt to divert attention from its failure to provide services. "The religious parties hold the government hostage," ex-ambassador Hussain Haqqani says. The Obama administration, meanwhile, is trying to calm tensions, airing a 30-second ad throughout Pakistan that shows President Obama and Hillary Clinton denouncing the offending film, their words subtitled in Urdu, the Dawn reports. Pakistan isn't the only hot spot today, either; Tunisia has evoked emergency powers to ban all demonstrations, the New York Times reports, and US posts have closed in India, Indonesia, and elsewhere.