Supporters of Pak extremist group cleric protest in several cities after his arrest

Sajjad Hussain
·2-min read

Islamabad, Apr 12 (PTI) Supporters of an extremist religious group in Pakistan protested in several cities of the country after its chief was arrested by the police as a 'pre-emptive measure' after he threatened the government with protests if it did not expel France's ambassador over depictions of Prophet Muhammad.

Saad Rizvi, who is the chief of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), was arrested in the eastern city of Lahore to “maintain law and order,' said Ghulam Mohammad Dogar, chief of Lahore police.

Rizvi called on the government to honour what he said was a commitment it made in February to TLP to expel the French envoy before April 20 over the publication in France of depictions of the Prophet.

Saad Rizvi is the son of late Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who protested last year against sacrilegious sketches in France and demanded expulsion of French ambassador.

Later on, the protesters led by him dispersed peacefully after the government reportedly assured him to take action in the matter.

The TLP says that initially the government had assured to fulfill its promise of expelling the ambassador in February but later asked for time and finally agreed to fulfill its commitment by April 20.

Rizvi had threatened to protest if the deadline was not met but the government as a precautionary measure took him in custody before the deadline.

Following the arrest of Rizvi, TLP supporters blocked busy roads in several main cities including Karachi, Lahore Multan and Islamabad.

In a video message, TLP deputy chief Syed Zaheerul Hassan Shah accused the government of deviating from the agreement with the TLP.

'The government has resorted to thuggery and is restoring its past practices,' he said, adding that the party leader Saad Rizvi had been arrested.

Saad Rizvi emerged as the leader of TLP in November after the sudden death of his father, Khadim Hussein Rizvi.

Rizvi's supporters have previously held violent rallies in Pakistan to pressure the government not to repeal the country's controversial blasphemy laws.

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 Muhammad as freedom of expression. PTI SH RUP RUP RUP