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TLP march from Lahore to Islamabad to protest against Dutch govt

30 August, 2018

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Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) on Wednesday started its march from Lahore to Islamabad — a form of protest against Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders' announcement to hold a competition of blasphemous caricatures — as its demand for the expulsion of the Netherlands' ambassador to Pakistan from the country remained unfulfilled.

After the party's supporters gathered at Data Darbar, the TLP rally kicked off its journey reciting na`at and chanting religious slogans. By midnight, the group had crossed Kala Shah Kaku on the G T Road and was closing in on Gujranwala.

Upon its arrival in Kamoke — some 25km from Gujranwala — the Khadim Hussain Rizvi-led rally was given a welcome by its supporters.

TLP spokesman Peer Zubair Ahmad told mediamen that over 100 buses, “countless” cars and pickup vans joined the march. "The protesters, who are now in thousands, would grow in numbers on the way to destination as many workers and smaller rallies were waiting on the Grand Trunk Road to join the main march throughout the 200-kilometre long journey."

Not revealing the whole plan, Ahmad said, “Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi is leading the march. The entire central executive body is also in the march and so are all leading names of the TLP. They will jointly announce the next plan once we hit the federal capital.”
PM forms committee to resolve matter

Following the rally's departure for Islamabad, Prime Minister Imran Khan formed a four-member committee to resolve the matter.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq, the Punjab Law Minister Raja and Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry comprise the committee, which is scheduled to meet the TLP leaders tomorrow.

"The committee will brief the TLP leaders on measures against blasphemous caricatures," said Qadri.

"The emotions of all Muslims against blasphemous caricatures are the same," Chaudhry, the information minister added. "A joint front is imperative against blasphemy."

He added: "We are trying to devise a joint strategy so that this issue can be dealt with effectively. We desire a peaceful resolution of this matter by the way of negotiations."

The religiopolitical party, meanwhile, has announced that its workers would "stay on the streets until either the publication of blasphemous cartoons in the Netherlands is stopped or the govt immediately ends diplomatic ties with the Dutch".

The blasphemous cartoon contest, scheduled for November, is being organised in the Netherlands by Wilders — a right-wing anti-Islam lawmaker who has been widely criticised for his activities.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has distanced his government from the controversial contest, clarifying that: "Wilders is not a member of the [Dutch] government. The competition is not a government initiative."

In a tweet on Wednesday, Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal said that FM Qureshi spoke with his Dutch counterpart to discuss the issue of "blasphemous caricatures".

"The FM expressed concern on the announcement of [the] abominable and sacrilegious competition by Geert Wilders," read the tweet, adding that the Dutch FM made it clear that his government was neither associated nor supporting the event

The demand for the envoy's expulsion was made during the first round of talks between TLP's top leadership and the government in Lahore.

Qadri and Basharat had represented the government in the meeting, while Muhammad Afzal Qadri, Allama Waheed Noor and Dr Amini from the TLP were also present.

Earlier, the religiopolitical party had urged the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government to not only "discontinue diplomatic and commercial relations with the Netherlands" but also "demand from other Islamic countries to do the same".

The TLP had also demanded that since the said competition's judge is an American national, "therefore, strict measures should also be taken against the US".

The religiopolitical party had attained notoriety after it effectively disrupted daily life in Islamabad for 20 days in November 2017.

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