Two policemen and two protestors are dead after clashes in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore. The violence erupted during a march by thousands of Islamists calling for the release of the leader of their outlawed Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan Party – or TLP Party.
He was arrested last year during demonstrations against France, where caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad were published.
Thousands of religious hardliners gathered in Lahore to march on the capital Islamabad. But their route was barricaded by security forces – and tensions quickly rose.
Their fury stems from the jailing of Saad Rizvi – leader of a banned Islamist party. He was arrested on terrorism charges during protests against France.
The party accuses France of blasphemy for allowing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed to be published. Protesters lay out their agenda, which include the demand that the French ambassador be expelled and that their leader be freed. France has warned its citizens to leave Pakistan.
The outlawed TLP Party has a history of organizing such rallies to put pressure on the government. It comes as Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan faces calls to resign over food and gas price hikes.
The government has announced it will hold a vote on expelling the French ambassador – but that’s just one of the protesters’ demands.