Protests continued in Pakistan on Tuesday for a second day, supporters of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) are demonstrating against the arrest of party chief Allama Saad Hussain Rizvi.
Thousands of supporters of the party blocked major roads to protest the arrest of their leader. They also disrupted critical oxygen supplies for COVID-19 patients, health officials said on Tuesday (April 13). Major intersections remained closed in Lahore, Pakistan’s second-biggest city.
The TLP is protesting blasphemous caricatures published in France. It is demanding that the French ambassador be sent home and import of goods from that country banned.
Protests amid COVID third wave
Pakistan is in the grip of a deadly third wave of the coronavirus with a shortage of vaccines. Punjab Health Minister Yasmin Rashid said the disruption of oxygen supplies during protests Monday night had been a “crisis”.
“Please do not block roads for ambulances and for visitors to the hospitals. Some ambulances are carrying oxygen cylinders, which are extremely essential for Covid-19 patients,” Rashid said.
Punjab pandemic point man Asad Aslam said several hospitals had faced oxygen shortages Monday night. But the situation had stabilized after roads were cleared by the authorities.
TLP is notorious for days-long road protests
The TLP is notorious for days-long road protests which have brought large swathes of Pakistan to a standstill over the years.
Police used tear gas and water cannon to break up crowds. A party official told AFP that two of their supporters were killed during clashes with security forces on Monday night. According to some reports, a police constable also succumbs to his injuries.
In a statement, party spokesperson Tayyab Rizvi said, “They will continue till the French ambassador is deported,” he said.
Rizvi was taken into custody hours after calling for an April 20 march on the capital. He wanted to demand the expulsion of the French ambassador. Rizvi is the son of previous TLP head Khadim Hussain Rizvi. He died in November after leading massive anti-France protests across Pakistan.
During those protests, TLP supporters brought the capital to a standstill for three days that saw heavy street fighting and pushed the authorities to cut mobile phone coverage in Islamabad and surrounding areas.
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