An Islamist party in Pakistan has called for the expulsion of the Dutch ambassador as it launched a protest against a far-right Dutch politician’s plan for a cartoon competition featuring caricatures of Prophet Mohammed.
Several thousand activists gathered in the eastern city of Lahore for the demonstration organised by Tehreek-e-Labbaik, a party that amassed the fifth largest number of votes in a general election last month having campaigned as a defender of the laws and punishments for crimes of blasphemy.
Party leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi set out from Lahore’s historic centre at the head of a protest he aims to take through the towns of Punjab province to the capital Islamabad, where protesters will stage a sit-in to pressure Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan to cut diplomatic ties with the Netherlands.
“The Dutch ambassador should be immediately deported,” Labbaik spokesman Ejaz Ashrafi said. “We will only stop when the government meets this demand.” Pakistan has already complained to the Dutch government about far-right parliamentarian Geert Wilders’ plans for a cartoon contest that will upset and provoke Muslims. Wilders intends to display the cartoons on the walls of his political party’s room in Parliament. He says he’s had “hundreds” of entries. “The Foreign Office called the charge d’affaires of the Netherlands and issued him a Demarche’ to record a protest,” the PMO said on Wednesday.
The Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte said last week that the cartoon competition “was not something I would do” and his government was not associated with it. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said he planned to take up the issue with the UN and several world leaders.