4 killed in Pakistan as police clash with religious party
Demanding expulsion of French envoy, far-right religious group blocks highways, paralyzes business activities
At least four people, including two police officers, have been killed and over 100 injured as clashes between police and supporters of a far-right religious party continued in Pakistan on Tuesday.
The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party has been staging protests in major Pakistani cities, including the capital Islamabad, for the past two days, demanding the expulsion of the French ambassador over offensive cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad published in France last year.
Security forces blocked all major thoroughfares leading to the capital, with paramilitary troops also deployed for the security of government buildings.
Supporters of the party, which led an anti-France sit-in in Islamabad last November, blocked highways, railway tracks and main entry and exit routes, paralyzing commercial and business activities.
Casualties were reported in Pakistan’s commercial capital Karachi and the northeastern city of Lahore.
According to a police spokesperson in Lahore, two police officers were killed and at least 97 were injured in pitched battles with angry mobs on Tuesday.
Several cops were also injured in clashes with protesters in Karachi, said officials in the southern port city.
The TLP claimed that two of its activists have been killed and dozens more injured by police over the past two days.
Last November, the group called off its protest after reaching an agreement with the government to involve the parliament in meeting its demands, which included the expulsion of the French ambassador and a boycott of French products.
Earlier this year, the deadline for a parliament resolution on the matter was revised until April 20.
Police in Lahore arrested Saad Rizvi, the head of the TLP and son of the party’s late founder Khadim Rizvi, ahead of planned demonstrations against the government.
He had asked his supporters in a video message to prepare for a long march to Islamabad if their demands are not met.
Tayyab Rizvi, a TLP spokesperson, said the protests will continue “until the French envoy is deported.”
Protests had broken out in several Muslim countries over France’s response to the murder in October last year of a teacher who showed cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in class.
French President Emmanuel Macron said at the time that France would “not give up our cartoons” while accusing French Muslims of “separatism” and describing Islam as “a religion in crisis.”
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