Protests in Pakistan continued on Tuesday for a second day as supporters of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) demonstrated against the arrest of party chief Allama Saad Hussain Rizvi.
Meanwhile, three people have been killed and over 100 have been arrested.
Major intersections remained closed in Lahore while traffic was upended in Islamabad and Karachi, Dawn newspaper reported.
In a statement, party spokesperson Tayyab Rizvi said that there was no truth to reports that the protests had been called off. “They will continue till the French ambassador is deported,” he said.
He added that party workers will participate in the protests till they are told otherwise by the party chief. He also said party workers had been martyred in firing incidents in Karachi, Lahore and Talagang. “The number of TLP workers martyred has risen to 12,” he said.
The TLP is protesting blasphemous caricatures published in France and demanding that the French ambassador be sent home and import of goods from that country banned.
The Pak government had reached an agreement with the TLP on 16 Nov to involve the parliament to decide the matter in three months. As the Feb 16 deadline neared, the government expressed its inability to implement the agreement and sought more time. The TLP agreed to delay its protest by two-and-a-half months to April 20.
On Sunday, the party chief, in a video message, asked the TLP workers to be ready to launch the long march if government failed to meet the deadline. It prompted the government to arrest him.
Police swooped on Rizvi at around 2pm on Wahdat Road in Lahore where he had gone to attend a funeral. Outraged, the TLP issued a call for countrywide protests. Within the next few hours, protesters took to the streets and blocked the Grand Trunk Road on a number of points.
All main cities like Lahore, Gujranwala, Islamabad and Peshawar were cut off from each other and the rest of the country.