Violent protests continue in Pakistan over arrest of Islamist leader
Islamabad, Apr 13 (EFE).- Violent protests over the arrest of an Islamist leader who called for the expulsion of the French ambassador continued for the second consecutive day in Pakistan on Tuesday, with roads cut off and sporadic clashes with the police throughout the country.
“In all the major cities of the country protest is ongoing. We will continue to protest until Saad Rizvi is released,” Ali Raza, the spokesperson of the Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), which is organizing the protests, told EFE.
The spokesperson said that since the protests began on Monday following the arrest of Rizvi, at least six of their members have died and 200 have been injured in clashes with the police.
The authorities, are yet to confirm the number of casualties.
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