Thousands of Islamists protesters stormed the street of Pakistan to demand Imran Khan’s new government to sever ties with the Netherlands over a “blasphemous” cartoon competition.
The march, which was organized by Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP), a political party established to punish blasphemers, presents the first major test of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) administration. Last year, a similar protest by the TLP shutdown the capital city Islamabad, for almost a month.
In June, Geert Wilders, the anti-Islam MP and the second largest party in Netherlands was found guilty of inciting hatred, after the party invited submission of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, which Islam forbids. The competition, which begins in November, will see the winner going home with $10,000 (£7,700). The competition has registered 200 entries so far.
“We can be martyred or arrested,” said one of the TLP’s leaders, Peer Afzal Qadri, “but we will not return until either the cartoon contest is stopped or the Dutch envoy is expelled.”
On Wednesday, thousands of activists came out from the eastern city of Lahore for Islamabad, where they plan to stage a sit-in.
Khadim Rizvi, the cleric who founded the TLP, said condemnation of the contest by the Pakistani government was not enough and “only jihad” was the solution.
In another instance before the country’s general elections, Rizvi said if he had the power, he would order a nuclear strike against the Netherlands if its government allowed the competition to go ahead.
Also, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, has termed the completion “disrespectful” but defended the right to hold it on the grounds of freedom of expression.