Protests erupted in multiple cities across Pakistan after authorities detained Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Sahibzada Saad Hussain Rizvi in Lahore on Monday.
According to a TLP spokesperson, Rizvi was arrested from Punjab capital’s Iqbal Town area, where he had gone to attend a funeral.
Saad Rizvi is the son of the firebrand cleric, and previous head of the TLP, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who died in November last year.
Police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse thousands of protesters who blocked streets and intersections in Lahore.
The arrest comes a day after TLP central council had warned the government that if did not expel the French ambassador from the country, they would march on Islamabad from Lahore on April 20.
The party spokesperson condemned the arrest of Rizvi, saying “coercive tactics” being used by the government would not dent the spirits of TLP and the party would proceed with the long march if the government failed to implement the agreement.
In a video released on social media, the deputy head of TLP, Syed Zaheer-ul-Hasan Shah, said Rizvi's arrest meant the government had violated an agreement to expel the French diplomat.
After nationwide protests broke out after Tehreek-e-Labbaik head Saad Rizvi was taken into custody, footage of him being escorted into a police vehicle by security forces has gone viral.#etribune #SaadRizvi #TLP— The Express Tribune (@etribune) April 12, 2021
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TLP leaders called upon its workers and activists to stage protests and sit-ins across the country, which led to massive traffic jams in major cities of the country including Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, Rawalpindi and others.
Meanwhile, the federal government has also called Rangers to maintain law and order in the federal capital.
Hundreds of TLP workers are protesting in the twin cities since Monday afternoon and blocked various highways and roads with burning tires.
Police in the twin cities have also been directed to arrest agitating TLP workers, who are trying to disrupt the law and order.
A heavy contingent of police has been deployed at all major government and private buildings including on major highways.
Dozens arrested in Karachi
Police and other law enforcement agencies arrested dozens of protesters trying to sabotage the law and order and forcing shops to shut in Karachi.
Due to protests at multiple locations in the city, Karachi witnessed one of its worst traffic jams causing immense difficulties to the commuters to reach their destinations.
Bumper-to-bumper traffic was witnessed on all major throughways and roads of the city while traffic authorities and law enforcement agencies failed to control the situation.
Thousands of vehicles were stranded during the worst traffic jams and many vehicles ran out of fuel.
Earlier, sources had told The Express Tribune that the government had decided to table a resolution, regarding the demands of TLP, including the expulsion of French diplomat, in parliament before Eidul Fitr.
The decision was taken in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan and attended by Law Minister Farogh Naseem, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid, Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri and other relevant senior officials.
Sources said that the meeting discussed the strategy for implementing the agreement reached with the TLP. It was also decided that other parties would be contacted on the issue of French envoy’s deportation. The meeting decided to bring the resolution in parliament before Eid.
The TLP had announced a sit-in in Islamabad to press for its demands. But on February 10, a government committee headed by Religious Affairs Minister Qadri assured the religious party that it would seek parliamentary approval on its demands by April 20.
The TLP has been demanding expulsion of the French ambassador over publication of blasphemous caricatures.
In November last year, the party staged a sit-in in Rawalpindi, which ended after an agreement was reached with the government.
(With input from agencies)