Islamabad, Apr 12 (EFE).- Pakistani authorities on Monday arrested an Islamist leader who has demanded that the French ambassador be expelled by Apr. 20, as supposedly agreed with the government earlier, resulting in protests and blockade of roads by his supporters.
The radical group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), led by the detained Islamist Saad Hussain Rizvi, led a blockade of the Pakistani capital by multiple hardline groups in November to protest against the caricatures of Prophet Mohammad and French President Emmanuel Macron’s comments on Islam, considered blasphemous by a section of Muslims.
“Today police arrested Saad Hussain Rizvi around 2 pm from the Rehmat ul Aalameen mosque in Lahore. He had given a call of countrywide protests after the deadline of Apr.20 passes,” TLP spokesperson Muhammad Zubair told EFE.
He added that the group had organized protests across the country after getting to know about Rizvi’s arrest.
“Our protesters have blocked highways, main roads and small roads on several places across the country,” said Zubair, insisting that the protests will continue “until our leader is released.”
The Islamist party claims that the government had agreed to the demand of the ambassador’s expulsion and severing bilateral ties with France, but seemed to be reneging on its promise.
Macron’s comments about continuing the fight for freedom of expression – after the beheading of a French teacher in October by a young Islamist for showing the controversial cartoons of Prophet Mohammad in a class on freedom of expression – triggered outrage across the Muslim world .
At the time, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan had accused Macron of attacking and ridiculing Islam and hurting the sentiments of millions of Muslims across the world.
During the next few weeks, the country witnessed massive protests against France, some of which resulted in clashes with the police when the protesters tried to reach the French embassy amid slogans calling for the head of the “blasphemer.”
On Mar. 18, Pakistani police arrested a man planning to attack the French embassy in Islamabad.
Protesters have also launched a boycott of French products in the Muslim majority country. EFE