Thousands of Islamists continue marching to Pakistan capital

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Thousands of supporters of a banned radical Islamist party clashed with police on Saturday for the second straight day from the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, who fired tear gas at the crowd, a party spokesman and eyewitnesses said.

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The group began its journey on Friday with the goal of reaching the capital Islamabad to pressurize the government to release Tehreek-e-Labiaq Pakistan Party chief Saad Rizvi. Rizvi was arrested last year amid protests against France over the publication of a caricature of Islam’s prophet Muhammad.

At least two policemen and two protesters were killed on Friday in violent clashes between security forces and Islamists in Lahore.


Rizvi’s party spokesman Sajid Saifi said supporters spent the night near the Ravi river bridge and headed towards Islamabad early in the morning amid heavy tear gas. Saifi said the huge crowd removed the barricades and exited the city limits, but again faced security forces near the town of Kala Shah Kako.

Saifi said that “many” party supporters were injured by tear gas canisters while trying to leave Lahore. Witnesses said the rally-takers were on foot but some vehicles were following them to take the injured to the hospital and bring food and water.

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Rizvi’s party rose to prominence in Pakistan’s 2018 elections, campaigning on a single issue: defending the country’s blasphemy law, which calls for the death penalty for anyone who insults Islam. It has a history of violent protests to pressure the government to accede to its demands.


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