ISLAMABAD: Protesters led by religious party Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) thronged to Islamabad on Sunday and continued their sit-in on Monday, calling for the Pakistan government to end diplomatic ties with France against the printing of images depicting the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Muslims around the world have protested against France and President Emmanuel Macron, who has vowed to stand firm against what he has described as attacks on French values and freedom of expression by radicals.
Pakistani media reported that police fired teargas on Sunday on stone-pelting protesters who had gathered on the call of TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi. Dozens of police men and protesters were injured, Dawn newspaper said.
Deputy Commissioner Islamabad, Hamza Shafqat, said on Monday authorities were trying their ‘best’ to clear the roads.
“Apologies for inconvenience,” he said on Twitter. “We are trying our best to clear the route.”
Islamabad Expressway from Zero Point till Khanna Bridge will stay sealed. Everyone is requested to plz use alternate routes. Apologies for inconvenience. We are trying our best to clear the route.
— Deputy Commissioner Islamabad (@dcislamabad) November 16, 2020
The protesters, who number in the thousands, have sent up camp at the Faizabad Interchange, which connects major highways between the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
Rawalpindi’s 24 entry points have been sealed with shipping containers and as many as 16 entry points into Islamabad also blocked. There was no mobile phone service in Rawalpindi and Islamabad since late Saturday night and all through the day on Sunday.
The TLP has said it will continue its protests until Islamabad announced cutting all diplomatic and economic ties with Paris.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office has already condemned “in the strongest manner the systematic resurgence of blasphemous acts of republication of caricatures of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and desecration of the Holy Qur’an by certain irresponsible elements in some developed countries.”
Last month, Pakistan’s parliament passed a resolution urging the government to recall its envoy from Paris and the foreign office summoned French Ambassador Marc Baréty to express anger over the cartoons.
French prescient Macron has paid tribute to a French history teacher who was beheaded by an 18-year-old man of Chechen origin for showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in a class on freedom of speech.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has also taken aim at Macron, saying he had attacked Islam by encouraging the display of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
In an open letter last month, Khan urged leaders of Muslim-majority countries to tackle the rising wave of Islamophobia by educating people around the world about Muslim religious sensitivities.
“I believe the leaders in these countries often act out of lack of understanding of the intrinsically deep passion, love and devotion Muslims all over the world have for their Prophet PBUH and their divine book, the Holy Qur’an,” he wrote.