Thousands of protesters clashed with police in Lahore, Pakistan, during a demonstration against President Macron’s support for a magazine showing a “blasphemous” cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed.
Anti-French sentiment in Pakistan has been simmering for months since President Emmanuel Macron’s administration expressed support for the right of a satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, to republish cartoons.
It comes after Saad Rizvi, leader of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), was arrested in Lahore on Monday, party officials said.
Protesters clashed with police today in Lahore, Pakistan, during protests against President Macron’s support for a magazine featuring the “blasphemous” cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed
Police used tear gas and sprayed water cannons on protesters as they took to the streets to demonstrate
It comes when it has been confirmed that the leader of a far-right Islamist party has been arrested. Pictured: Police surround a Pakistani activist from Tehreek-e-Labbaik
Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse thousands of protesters blocking streets and intersections in Lahore, the country’s second largest city.
The arrest of the party leader was confirmed by the police, but they did not say what the charges were.
He had tried to organize a march into the capital on April 20 to demand the expulsion of the French ambassador.
Rizvi is the son of the chaplain and former chief of the TLP, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who passed away in November.
Pakistani police confirmed that Saad Rizvi was arrested in Lahore on Monday, but did not say the charges
Rizvi and his party had demanded the expulsion of the French ambassador and tried to organize a march into the capital on April 20
During the clashes, police were seen holding tear gas and water cannons while protesters apparently brandished large sticks and some hurled them at officers
In a video posted on social media, TLP deputy head Syed Zaheer-ul-Hasan Shah said Rizvi’s arrest meant the government had breached an agreement to expel the French diplomat.
Last year TLP supporters stalled Islamabad for three days with a series of rallies against France.
The police blocked the protesters as they tried to enter the capital. Some sang that the only punishment for a blasphemer is beheading, police officer Tauqeer Shah said.
The protesters attacked the police with bricks, stones and sticks, he added. They blocked the road to the Pakistani capital.
“Several of our officers were injured,” he said, adding that nearly 2,000 protesters camped at the main entrance to the city and refused to leave.
Thousands of Tehreek-e-Labbaik protesters shout slogns next to empty tear gas cartridges fired by police during an anti-France demonstration in Islamabad, Pakistan
Almost 2,000 protesters camped at the main entrance to Islamabad, Pakistan. The protesters attacked the police with bricks, stones and sticks, according to police officer Tauqeer Shah
“We want the government to expel the French ambassador immediately,” said TLP Vice President Zaheer-ul-Hasan in a video statement. He added that numerous demonstrators were injured in the clashes.
TLP is also believed to have caused unrest at a hospital in Faisalabad after two nurses were accused of blasphemy.
A mob gathered at the Faisalabad District Headquarters hospital demanding nurses Maryam Lal and Newsh Urooj is hanged.
The women told police they were asked to clean up the head nurse’s locker and scraped off the sacred text sticker with a pen, The Times reports.
Riots broke out in front of the Faisalabad District Headquarters hospital (pictured) after two nurses were accused of blasphemy
Police had to intervene to rescue the women and later confirmed that an investigation into the incident was underway. Officers said the couple had been in custody for 15 days.
An overwhelming 98 percent of the population follow Islam and critics say the law targets members of other religious groups, including Hindus and Christians.
National and international human rights groups say blasphemy allegations have often been used to intimidate minorities and settle personal issues.