The Islamist Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party launched a march from Lahore to Islamabad on Wednesday, August 29, to protest a controversial planned cartoon contest in the Netherlands depicting the Prophet Muhammad and to demand the expulsion of the Dutch envoy from Pakistan. Thousands of protesters gathered at Data Darbar in Lahore on Wednesday evening (local time) before beginning the march to Islamabad via Grand Trunk Road. TLP chief Khadim Rizvi is expected to hold sermons in towns along the way - most notably in Kāmoke, Gujrat, and Rawalpindi - before arriving in Islamabad on Sunday, September 2. A heightened security presence and traffic disruptions are expected along the march route.
Far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders recently announced his plans to hold a cartoon contest depicting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad later this year; physical depictions of the Prophet are generally considered offensive in Islam. On August 28, the Pakistani government issued a formal complaint to the Dutch government regarding the contest; however, Dutch officials have refused to cancel the event, maintaining the country's commitment to freedom of speech. Notably, Dutch police arrested a man in The Hague on August 28 who is suspected of plotting to assassinate Wilders over the planned cartoon contest.
Individuals in Pakistan, especially in the abovementioned areas, are advised to monitor developments to the situation, avoid all public gatherings and demonstrations as a precaution, refrain from discussing sensitive religious and political topics in public, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities.
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