A DAY after he threatened the Pakistan government with protests if it did not expel France’s ambassador over depictions of the ‘prophet’ Mohammed, Saad Hussain Rizvi, above, was seized by police.
Rizvi, leader of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan Party, was arrested in the eastern city of Lahore to “maintain law and order”, said Ghulam Mohammad Dogar, chief of Lahore police.
According to this report, Rizvi had been calling on the government to honour what he said was a commitment it made in February to his party to expel the French envoy before April 20 over the publication in France of depictions of Mohammed.
Dogar provided no further details about the arrest, which quickly drew condemnation from Rizvi’s supporters who began gathering near the party’s main office for a protest.
Clashes soon erupted in Lahore between police and Rizvi’s supporters, who were also rallying on the outskirts of the capital Islamabad, disrupting traffic and inconveniencing residents.
Protesters also blocked some roads in the southern port city of Karachi and elsewhere in the country, raising fears of violence amid a surge in cases of coronavirus in Pakistan.
His supporters have previously held violent rallies in Pakistan to pressure the government not to repeal the country’s controversial blasphemy laws.
The party wants the government to boycott French products and expel the French ambassador under an agreement signed by the government with Rizvi’s party in February.
Tehreek-e-Labiak and other Islamist parties have denounced French President Emmanuel Macron since October last year, saying he tried to defend caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed as freedom of expression.
Macron’s comments came after a young Muslim beheaded a French school teacher who had shown caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in class.
The images had been republished by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to mark the opening of the trial over the deadly 2015 attack against the publication for the original caricatures.
The BBC reported this week that France has urged all its citizens in the Islamic Republic to leave the country temporarily amid the violent anti-French protests across the country.
The country’s embassy in Pakistan warned of “serious threats to French interests in Pakistan”, saying protests were increasing nationwide.
Two police officers died this week in renewed clashes with protesters.
Rizvi’s arrest, and a move by the Pakistani authorities to ban the TLP, brought thousands of the party’s supporters into the streets in Pakistan to protest. Police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon at the crowds.
Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, Pakistani Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, above, said the nation was “in favour of protecting the Prophet’s honour” but that the TLP’s demands:
Could have portrayed Pakistan as a radical nation worldwide.
On its website, the French embassy in Pakistan said on Thursday:
Demonstrations are increasing across the country. In this context, and because of the serious threats to French interests in Pakistan, French nationals are recommended to temporarily leave the country via existing commercial airlines.
The TLP is the political arm of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA) movement.
Led by Rizvi’s father – Khadim Rizvi, who died in November – it came to prominence for its opposition to the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, a policeman who killed the governor of Punjab province Salman Taseer in 2011 because he had spoken out against the country’s blasphemy laws.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn