Pakistan frees Islamist leader arrested over protests linked to cartoon row

Islamabad, Nov 18 (EFE).- Pakistani authorities on Thursday released the leader of the Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Saad Hussain Rizvi, who had been arrested in April for backing violent protests demanding the arrest of the French ambassador over the controversy linked to cartoons of Prophet Mohammad.

Rizvi’s release from a prison in the eastern city of Lahore, the TLP bastion in the country, comes days after the government reached an agreement with the Islamist group to end its latest violent protests.

“Our leader has been released from jail and reached the main center, the Rehmatul Lil Alameen mosque,” TLP spokesperson Ali Raza told EFE.

Hundreds of the group’s supporters came out on the streets of Lahore to celebrate Rizvi’s release with slogans and fireworks.

His release coincides with the upcoming death anniversary of TLP founder Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the father of the current leader.

The development comes after last week the provincial government of the eastern Punjab region, which has Lahore as its capital, withdrew the Islamist leader’s name from the blacklist of persons suspected of terrorism or sectarianism.

On Nov. 7, the government lifted a ban that had been imposed on TLP on Apr. 15 under the anti-terror law, a day after the party ended a protest march it had launched against the French ambassador on Oct. 22, fulfilling part of the conditions it had agreed upon with the government.

As part of the pact, the authorities also freed more than 2,000 TLP activists.

The protests date back to November 2020, when thousands of people demonstrated against French President Emmanuel Macron for his comments backing the right to publish cartoons of Prophet Mohammad, following the beheading of a French teacher who showed the drawings to his students.

Macron’s comments were termed blasphemous by a section of the Muslim world.

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