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ISLAMABAD/RAWALPINDI: Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders said on Thursday he had cancelled a planned cartoon contest following death threats and concerns other people could be put at risk, AP news agency reported.

The cartoons were seen by Muslims as derogatory to the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him).

Hours before Wilders made his decision public, Prime Minister Imran Khan stated he would raise the issue not only with the Netherlands government but also with the Western world through the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the United Nations.

In yet another related development, the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) that had demanded the newly installed Imran-led government of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf expel the Dutch ambassador and marched on Islamabad to press for its demand called off its planned sit-in in the wake of the cancellation of the controversial competition.

According to late-night news reports, the TLP would observe Friday as Yaum-i-Tashakkur.

In a written statement quoted by AP in The Hague-datelined report, Wilders said “to avoid the risk of victims of Islamic violence, I have decided not to let the cartoon contest go ahead”.

Wilders, who has for years lived under round-the-clock protection because of death threats sparked by his fierce anti-Islam rhetoric, said he does not want others endangered by the contest he planned for November.

The contest was to have been held at the tightly guarded offices of his Party for Freedom in the Dutch parliament building.

Meanwhile, a Dutch judge extended by two weeks the detention of a 26-year-old man who had allegedly threatened to attack Wilders.

Prosecutors said in a statement on Thursday that an investigating judge had ordered the suspect held while he was investigated on charges of making a terrorist threat, making preparations for a murder and incitement.

The man, reportedly a Pakistan citizen, was arrested in The Hague on Tuesday on suspicion of terror offences after he allegedly posted the threat, in Urdu, on Facebook a day earlier. Prosecutors say he was not armed.

In Islamabad, Prime Minister Khan in a video message said he would take up the issue not only with the Netherlands government but also with the entire West through OIC and the United Nations.

Mr Khan said he had asked Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to take up the issue of blasphemy with the OIC so that a collective voice could be raised at the UN forum.

“We will do it again and again as this is the only way that the practice of disgracing of the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) can be stopped,” he added.

Earlier in the day, the residents of the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad braced for another protest sit-in by the TLP activists as the rally led by its chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi that started from Lahore on Wednesday entered the precincts of the capital city on Thursday night.

The TLP shot to prominence with a sit-in at the Faziabad interchange in November last year over the issue of Khatm-i-Nubuwat, paralysing life in the twin cities for three weeks. It had announced plans to stage an indefinite sit-in in the capital against the now cancelled competition.

The TLP wanted the government to expel the Dutch ambassador, sever diplomatic ties with the Netherlands and urge all the Muslim countries to do the same.

The police and the city administration were not issued any specific directives from the high-ups about how to deal with the protesters and they had adopted a “wait-and-see policy”.

As the TLP rally crossed Gujar Khan, some 50km from Islamabad, containers were seen being placed in different parts of Islamabad, especially in the Red Zone area.

“We are still in the dark about the destination of the rally participants, but there is a strong possibility that they again choose Faizabad for a sit-in,” said a police official, adding that backdoor negotiations were in progress with the TLP leaders.

Accident

Two young TLP activists died and five others received injuries when a trailer which was part of the TLP’s rally hit two motorcycles near the Sohawa area after its brakes failed.

The deceased were identified as Mohammad Ramzan Ali, a resident of Kot Abdullah in Lahore, and Hafiz Ghulam Rasool, a resident of Gujrat.

Our correspondent in Gujar Khan also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2018