Pakistan to ban religious group as supporters hold violent street protests
Iran Press TV
Thursday, 15 April 2021 12:07 PM
Supporters of a Pakistani religious groups have held street protests after the government announced it mulled outlawing a religious group that has been organizing violent protests against France over publication of cartoons against the Prophet of Islam.
Islamabad announced on Wednesday that Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), which has been notorious for holding violent rallies in the country despite various marches against insulting and blasphemous French cartoons of the Prophet of Islam, was to be banned and outlawed under the country's anti-terrorism laws.
"We have decided to ban the TLP," Pakistan's Interior Minister Rashid Ahmed told a news conference, adding, "We are in favor of protecting the Prophet's honor, but the demand which they are seeking could have portrayed Pakistan as a radical nation worldwide."
Following the announcement, thousands of TLP's supporters blocked major intersections in cities throughout the country on Wednesday, the third day of violent protests in the week.
The protests, as the Pakistani government said, turned violent after the group's supporters clashed with police and security forces, leaving two police officers dead and at least 340 others injured.
Police said at least 1,400 supporters of the group have been arrested during the latest round of protests, which erupted after the detention Monday of TLP leader Saad Rizvi.
Rizvi, who is charged by the Pakistani government with instigating murder, was taken into custody hours after calling for a march in the capital, Islamabad, to demand the expulsion of the French ambassador and boycott of French products over the European country's anti-Islam stance.
TLP has been notorious for holding violent rallies in the country despite marches against blasphemous French cartoons of the Prophet of Islam were banned.
During the protests, supporters of the group brought Islamabad to a standstill for three days that saw heavy street fighting, with Pakistan's authorities cutting mobile phone coverage in the capital city and surrounding areas.
The demonstrations ended after a meeting between the government and TLP party leaders, who claimed Islamabad had agreed to expel the French ambassador.
Reacting to derogatory cartoons of Prophet Mohammad, French President Emmanul Macron has said he would not "renounce the caricatures." He recently described Islam as a religion "in crisis" and declared war on "Islamist separatism," which he claimed was taking over France's estimated six-million-strong Muslim population.
The comments have angered not only the Muslim community in France, but all Islamic nations, leading to protests, boycott calls and diplomatic condemnations in the Middle East and the broader Muslim world.
On Thursday, the French embassy in Pakistan advised all French nationals and companies to temporarily leave the country, after violent anti-France protests paralysed large parts of the country this week, AFP reported.
"Due to the serious threats to French interests in Pakistan, French nationals and French companies are advised to temporarily leave the country," the embassy said in an email to French citizens, adding, "The departures will be carried out by existing commercial airlines."
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