A banned Islamist group prepared to march Thursday towards the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, as authorities vowed to repel it forcefully, following bloody clashes the previous day.
Since Friday, thousands of members of the banned Labaik Pakistan group have gathered on a highway just outside the eastern city of Lahore, making a series of demands, including the release of their imprisoned leader. On Wednesday, they began marching north towards the Pakistani capital.
A spokesman for the movement said: “We started walking towards Islamabad, and the police surrounded the road, but we will remove them.”
On Wednesday evening, clashes resulted in the killing of about 4 police officers and several members of the movement, and dozens of injured.
The country’s information minister had said that they would be treated in full force, as an armed group, and would not be allowed to enter the capital, where shipping containers had been placed to block roads.
“Police were called from 3 districts, while Rangers were on alert,” a senior police official said, referring to paramilitary forces called in by the government to help contain protesters who were blocking Pakistan’s busiest highway.
This is the group’s third nationwide protest campaign since 2017, over the cartoons that Muslims deemed a severe insult to their beliefs.