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Pakistan Islamists repeat police clash

Thousands of supporters of a banned radical Islamist party have departed the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, clashing for a second day with police who dispersed tear gas into the crowd.

The group began their journey on Friday with the goal of reaching the capital Islamabad to pressure the government to release Saad Rizvi, the head of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan party.

Rizvi was arrested last year amid demonstrations against France over the publication of caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

Violent clashes erupted between security forces and Islamists in Lahore on Friday leaving at least two police and two demonstrators dead.

Sajid Saifi, a spokesman for Rizvi’s party, said supporters spent the night near the Ravi River bridge and in the early morning on Saturday started again towards Islamabad amid heavy tear gas.

Saifi said the huge crowd removed barricades and exited the city limits but again faced security forces near the town of Kala Shah Kako.

He said “many” party supporters were injured by tear gas cannisters as they attempted to leave Lahore.

Rizvi’s party gained prominence in Pakistan’s 2018 elections, campaigning on a single issue: defending the country’s blasphemy law, which calls for the death penalty for anyone who insults Islam.

It has a history of staging violent protests to pressure the government to accept its demands.

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