At least 2 killed, 40 injured in Pakistan in violent Islamist protests
(Update 1: adds casualties)
Islamabad, Apr 13 (EFE).- At least two people were killed and over 40 injured – nearly all of them police officers – in Pakistan on Tuesday, the second consecutive day of violent protests over the arrest of an Islamist leader who called for the expulsion of the French ambassador, officials said.
“One (police) constable Muhammed Afzal was martyred today and 40 policemen got injured so far,” Lahore police spokesperson Rana Arif told EFE, with the city in western Punjab province witnessing the worst clashes.
He added that a protester of the Islamist Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party, which had called the protests over the arrest of its leader Saad Rizvi, had also been killed.
TLP spokesperson Ali Raza claimed that at least six protesters had been killed by the police and around 200 had been injured, but authorities have not confirmed these figures.
“We will continue to protest until Saad Rizvi is released,” Raza had insisted to EFE earlier on Tuesday.
Besides the release of their leader, the radicals also demand the expulsion of the French ambassador from Pakistan over the publication of the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad and allegedly blasphemous comments against Islam by French President Emmanuel Macron in October last year.
Earlier this week, Rizvi, who is the leader of TLP, gave an ultimatum to the government to expel the French diplomat before Apr.20, prompting his arrest.
In several cities, such as Karachi (south), Lahore (east), Peshawar (northwest) and Islamabad, among others, more than a dozen roads were cut off disrupting transport services.
“Lahore is all closed. All the exit and entry points of the city are closed,” Ahmed Ali, police spokesperson of Punjab province – which accounts for half the country’s population and whose capital is Lahore -, told EFE.
Ali said that sporadic clashes were taking place in several cities of the province with the demonstrators, who have used stones to attack the police.
“The protesters are not peaceful,” he stressed.
The Islamist group claims that the government in November accepted their demand to expel the French ambassador from the country and cut off bilateral relations with France, but have not kept their promise.
Last year, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan had accused Macron of attacking and ridiculing Islam and hurting the sentiments of millions of Muslims across the world following his comments, which were made in the wake of a French schoolteacher being beheaded by a young Chechen Islamist on Oct. 16. EFE