LONDON: Supporters of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan protest outside the Pakistan High Commission on Thursday.—Dawn
LONDON: Supporters of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan protest outside the Pakistan High Commission on Thursday.—Dawn

LONDON: Nearly two dozen supporters, purportedly from the UK chapter of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), gathered outside the Pakistan High Commission in London to demand that the Pakistan government expel the French ambassador as well as boycott French products.

Though they did not formally identify a leader or organiser of the protest, they carried the party’s flag and chanted its characteristic “Labbaik” slogan.

The group gathered at Lowndes Square on Thursday afternoon to chant slogans and also submit a petition with their formal complaints to the High Commission. They also protested against the death of TLP workers who were killed during ongoing riots across Pakistan.

The protestors were largely British Pakistanis settled in London, while some had travelled from Birmingham where the TLP is known to have a limited but active presence.

Metropolitan Police officials arrived at the scene and allowed the protesters to raise their concerns in a peaceful manner. Among their slogans, the protesters chanted one in Urdu that translates to inciting violence against someone who commits blasphemy.

The petition detailed the group’s position on blasphemous sketches and summarised their demands to the government about the expulsion of the French ambassador. It also noted that the government had reneged on an agreement with the group and protested the arrest of their leader despite their understanding with government officials.

The government of Pakistan this week moved to ban the TLP after its elements attacked police officials during widespread protests that paralysed major thoroughfares across the country.

In a country policy and information note on Pakistan from December 2020, the Home Office described the TLP as a party that emerged out of a protest movement in 2016 against the state’s execution of Mumtaz Qadri.

It noted that, in its first ever election in September, 2017, “the party surprised Pakistani political elite with a strong showing” by securing nearly 8 per cent of total votes cast in a by-election.

It also added a note from the International Crisis Group report dated January 2019, which said religious groups, spearheaded by the TLP launched violent protests countrywide after the Supreme Court’s acquittal of Aasia Bibi, a Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy by a court in 2010. It said the group attacked police officers and citizens and also destroyed public and private property.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2021

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