An Islamist party in Pakistan called for the expulsion of Dutch ambassador Ardi Stoios-Braken on Wednesday as it launched a protest against a cartoon competition featuring caricatures of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed. Photograph:( Reuters )
Thousands of people in Pakistan are marching towards Islamabad marking protest against the far-right Dutch lawmaker for his plan for a cartoon competition featuring caricatures of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed this year.
About 10,000 people gathered in Lahore on Wednesday for the demonstrations which were organised by Tehreek-e-Labbaik, a party that amassed the fifth largest number of votes in a general election last month.
The marchers are expected to reach Islamabad today where they will stage a sit-in to demand an expulsion of the Dutch ambassador. Demonstrators are also demanding to cut diplomatic ties with the Netherlands.
The protests are aimed to pressurise prime minister Imran Khan who reportedly has also denounced the contest and called it an attempt to defame Islam.
"The Dutch ambassador should be immediately deported," Labbaik spokesman Ejaz Ashrafi was quoted as saying by news agency Reuters.
"We will only stop when the government meets this demand," he added.
However, reports say that calls so far have been dismissed by the government.
The cartoon contest is being organised by far-right parliamentarian Geert Wilders who has a history of incendiary remarks about Islam. The Dutch government has distanced itself from the event while saying it is committed to free speech.
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.
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.
Physical depictions of God or the prophet, even positive ones, are forbidden in Islam and considered deeply offensive.
Pakistan has already complained to the Dutch government about Geert Wilders' plans for a cartoon contest that will upset and provoke Muslims.
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said he planned to take up the issue with the United Nations and several world leaders.
"They don`t understand how much they hurt us when they do such acts," Imran Khan, a cricketer-turned-politician, said on Tuesday, a day after the upper house of parliament condemned the proposed cartoon competition.
(With inputs from news agencies)