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Pakistan briefly blocked social media amid an anti-French rally

LAHOR, Pakistan (AP) – Pakistan briefly blocked access to all social media on Friday, after days of anti-French protests across the country by radical Islamists opposed to cartoons they consider blasphemous.

Sites, including Twitter and Facebook, were blocked for four hours at the behest of the country’s interior ministry, said Huram Mehran, a spokesman for the Pakistan Media Regulatory Agency. He did not give more details.

The move comes as police prepare to clear a large-scale demonstration in the eastern city of Lahore, just hours after the government said the now-detained leader of the outlawed Islamist political party in the forefront of protests called on its supporters to back down.

With a handwritten note written by Saad Rizvi, the government hopes to ease tensions after his Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan party sparked violent protests ̵

1; in which two police officers were killed and 580 wounded. As a result, France called on its citizens to leave the country.

Three protesters were also killed in clashes with security agencies, and the government banned the party.

A photo of the statement was posted earlier by an adviser to the prime minister on Twitter, but neither Rizvi himself nor any of his party’s leadership were immediately available for comment. Some of his followers insisted on hearing or seeing the words come from Rizvi himself before stopping, and the protest in Lahore continued after Friday prayers.

On Thursday, the French embassy in Pakistan advised all its citizens and companies to temporarily leave the Islamic State after violence erupted over Rizvi’s arrest.

Violent protests have continued in Lahore since Monday, damaging private and public property and disrupting much-needed oxygen supplies to hospitals. Some of those affected include patients with COVID-19 who were on oxygen support.

In a statement, Rizvi asked his supporters to disperse for peace for the good of the country and to end their main seat, which began on Monday when police arrested a radical cleric for threatening protests if the government did not expel the French ambassador before April 20.

Rizvi’s arrest sparked violent protests from his followers, who disrupted traffic by holding rallies in the country. Although security forces cleared almost all rallies, thousands of Rizvi’s followers are still gathering in Lahore, promising to die to protect the honor of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad.

Rizvi became the leader of Pakistan’s banned Tehrik-e-Labiak party in November following the sudden death of his father, Hadim Hussein Rizvi. His party also wants the government to boycott French products.

Rizvi’s party condemned French President Emmanuel Macron in October last year, saying he was trying to defend the blasphemous cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad as freedom of expression. Macron had spoken after a young Muslim beheaded a French school teacher who showed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in class.

The images were republished by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to mark the opening of the trial for the deadly attack in 2015 against the publication of the original cartoons.

This has infuriated many Muslims in Pakistan and elsewhere who believe these images are blasphemous. In recent years, Rizvi’s group has become known for opposing any change in the country’s harsh blasphemy laws, according to which anyone accused of insulting Islam or other religious figures could be sentenced to death if convicted. guilty.

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