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TLP threatens Islamabad blockade over blasphemous Dutch cartoons

Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) protesters vow to blockade the city unless Dutch ties are cut over cartoon competition

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Hundreds of far-right protesters are, once again, marching on Pakistan capital Islamabad, threatening to bring the city to a halt unless the country cuts all diplomatic ties with Netherlands over a cartoon competition deemed to be blasphemous.

Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) protesters started their second day of the mach from the provincial capital of Punjab.

Also read: Pakistan no longer ‘darling’ of West: Foreign minister Qureshi

The TLP party is protesting against the holding of a competition of cartoons depicting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad by far-right Dutch opposition leader Geert Wilders, a known provocateur. 

Physical depictions of God or the Prophet Muhammad are forbidden in Islam, and the TLP says the competition amounts to “blasphemy”.

The Dutch government has distanced itself from the competition, with Prime Minister Mark Rutte clarifying that Wilders is not a member of government.

“The competition is not a government initiative,” he told a news conference last week.

The Dutch government, however, maintains that banning the competition would be a violation of the right to freedom of expression. 

Foreign Minister Stef Blok echoed Rutte’s comments.

“The Netherlands very much adheres by freedom of speech, but we also adhere to treat religions respectfully,” Blok said according to Dutch news agency ANP.

He added that the competition “wouldn’t be his choice” but that there were no plans to ban the contest from happening.

Wilders leads the Dutch opposition Freedom Party (PVV), and is known for his incendiary speeches and protests against immigration and Islam.

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The far-right politician told Dutch media the contest was not being held “to provoke, but to show we are marching for freedom of speech”.

On Tuesday, Dutch police arrested a man accused of plotting to kill the politician over the competition.

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