Islamabad, Nov 16 (efe-epa).- Around 1,000 Islamist protesters on Monday blocked one of the main entries into Pakistani capital Islamabad in protests against France over the publication of the allegedly “blasphemous” caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad.
Followers of the hardline group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) have occupied the Faizabad intersection, which connects Islamabad with the city of Rawalpindi, throwing the capital’s traffic into disarray, a day after clashing with the police.
“Police tried to oust them by teargas shelling but they resisted,” Islamabad police spokesperson Iqbal Hussain told EFE.
He said security forces had blocked all the roads leading to the diplomatic enclave of Islamabad, where all the embassies are situated, and the government had deployed extra police forces in front of the French mission.
The government suspended mobile phone services in parts of the capital, a standard measure taken by the Pakistani authorities in such situations.
The TLP has demanded that the government expel the French ambassador and called for a boycott of French products in the country.
“We will not go back unless our demands are met,” Zubair Ahmed, a spokesperson of the group, told EFE.
Ahmed claimed that around 2,000 protesters were part of the blockade.
He said police on Sunday arrested at least 100 TLP members, and 20 suffered injuries in clashes with security forces.
Over the past few weeks, Pakistan has witnessed a series of protests against France and its president, Emmanuel Macron, for his comments about Islam and his refusal to ban the cartoons allegedly mocking the Prophet.
In October, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan 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.
Khan has also repeatedly accused Europe of stoking Islamophobia.
Samuel Paty, a 47-year-old secondary school history and geography teacher, was killed by the knife-wielding attacker because he had shown the cartoons to students during a class on freedom of expression.
Images of the Prophet are considered deeply offensive by many Muslims and are widely seen as taboo in Islam. EFE-EPA