LAHORE - Thousands of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) workers yesterday started its protest march from Lahore to Islamabad against Holland’s exhibition of blasphemous caricatures of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

The participants, led by TLP Chief Allama Khadim Rizvi, are demanding the PTI government sever diplomatic ties with The Netherlands. The march started after a government delegation failed to convince the hardline leadership of the TLP here in a meeting to cancel the march.

Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri and Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat met TLP’s Pir Afzal Qadri and others to convince them to stop protest.

“The government delegation was seeking time to accept our demand, but we made it clear that the march will not stop and the protest will continue till the expulsion of the Dutch ambassador from the country,” TLP Chairman Pir Afzal Qadri said.

He added: “We can be martyred or arrested, but will not return until either the cartoon contest is stopped or the Dutch envoy is expelled.”

A Dutch anti-Islam politician and opposition leader, Geert Wilders, has announced to hold the profane contest of cartoons in November.

The Senate has already passed a resolution against the exhibition. Prime Minister Imran Khan promised to raise the issue in the United Nations and called for an emergency meeting of OIC. Millions of Muslims across the world are also demanding The Netherlands cancel the exhibition and their anger is increasing with every passing day.

The Dutch government has expressed helplessness to stop the exhibition by the opposition party owing to the existing laws of that country. The Dutch PM has distanced himself from the opposition step.

Addressing the protesters, firebrand cleric Khadim Rizvi who leads TLP said condemnation of the contest by the Pakistani government was not enough and only ‘jihad’ was the solution.

His party won two seats of the provincial assembly from Sindh and appeared the largest religious organisation in terms of vote bank. During the election campaign, Rizvi had raised slogan to wipe out The Netherlands from the world map through nuclear strike if the country held the exhibition.

Pir Ijaz Ashrafi, spokesman for TLP, said: “We know how to force the government to accept our demands. We will make no compromise on respect and dignity of the prophet (PBUH).”

In November, TLP’s 2,000 followers, led by Allama Rizvi, blockaded the motorway between Islamabad and its sister city, Rawalpindi, on the issue of amendment in the declaration form as part of Election Act, 2017.

The sit-in eventually forced the government to take back the amendment and sack Law Minister Zahid Hamid. The government, then agreeing to the TLP conditions, also reached a six-point agreement with it. Analysts say handling the protest is the first test of the new government of PTI.

The TLP rally started making its way out of Lahore via G T Road after the protesters gathered at Data Darbar. The march is expected to reach Islamabad Friday.

CORRUPTION RAMPANT

IN ETPB: MINISTER

Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Inter-Faith Harmony Noorul Haq Qadri has said that corruption is at its peak in Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) bringing bad name to the department.

Addressing a press conference after holding a meeting with ETPB officers in board office on Wednesday, he said decisions had been taken in the meeting with ETPB officers which would be shared with media later.

Regarding blasphemy, he said it was the most critical issue and “We have directed our ambassador in Saudi Arabia to contact OIC authorities to convene a meeting in this regard”.

He said that Pakistan had also contacted United Nations (UN), Human Rights Commission (HRC), European countries and Geneva to stop the act of blasphemy being committed by Holland.

 “We have condemned this brutal act in National Assembly, Senate and Cabinet and prime minister has also condemned it in his speech,” he said, adding, Prime Minister Imran Khan was a great lover of Holy Prophet (PBUH).

Other leaders from different religions were also present on the occasion including Sikh, Christian and Hindu who also spoke on the occasion and condemned the act of blasphemy by Holland. They termed the act of making caricatures terrorism and demanded action against the people responsible for that.

To a question about rampant corruption in ETPB, he said, “I endorse your point of view and we will try to make it a profitable institute as per vision of the prime minister”.