Pakistan to deploy paramilitary in Punjab amid deadly Islamist protests

Islamabad, Oct 27 (EFE).- The Pakistan government Wednesday announced that it would deploy paramilitary Rangers in Punjab province to stop a deadly Islamist march to Islamabad for the expulsion of the French ambassador.

Thousands of Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) activists have been trying to march to Islamabad from Lahore since Oct.22, demanding the release of their leader and the expulsion of the ambassador over the publication of alleged caricatures depicting the Prophet Mohammad in a French satirical magazine.

At least nine people, including two cops, have died and several others suffered injuries in clashes between TLP protesters and security forces since the start of the long march to the capital.

“I confer powers to the Punjab government to deploy Rangers under Anti-terrorist Act in the province for 60 days when and where they see necessary,” Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad told reporters in Islamabad.

The government allegedly agreed to the demands of the far-right group after the TLP, last year, held a series of protests against the caricatures and the comments by French President Emmanuel Macron about Islam.

Marcon refused to ban the cartoons allegedly mocking the Prophet to the chagrin of the Muslim world.

The agreement included the expulsion of the French ambassador, severing ties with France, and releasing TLP leaders, including chief Maulana Saad Rizvi.

Rasheed urged TLP leadership to call off their protest march and go back to Lahore since the government could not agree to their demands.

“Neither we can close the French embassy nor can we send the ambassador back,” said the minister.

“French ambassador is even not in the country at the moment.”

The Islamist group resumed its march Wednesday after staying for four days in Muridke city. EFE


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