Pakistan’s government and an Islamic group have claimed victory after a Dutch lawmaker cancelled plans to hold a contest for drawing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.
Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, a political party that supports blasphemy laws, called off its protest march on the capital Islamabad after the announcement in the Netherlands shortly after midnight local time on Thursday.
Thousands of activists led by the party’s radical chief Khadim Rizvi were about to reach the capital in a rally that had started in the eastern city of Lahore Wednesday when Dutch far-right Member of Parliament Geert Wilders announced that the competition was being called off.
“We will disperse now,” party leader Pir Afzal Qadri told his cheering supporters, who shouted “Allah-o-Akbar” when they were informed about the cancellation.
“This is our victory. This is a great day for the entire Muslim world. We have stopped infidels from disrespecting our prophet,” Qadri said.
The group wanted to block one of the major entrances into Islamabad to replicate their protest in 2017, when they forced the country’s previous justice minister to step down on a law related to blasphemy after a prolonged blockade of the city.
Hours after the announcement, Pakistan Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the cancellation was a “great victory” for the Pakistani government and the people.
“Long live love for prophet,” the minister tweeted in Urdu.
Prime Minister Imran Khan lamented Europe’s insensitivity to Muslim sentiments, in a video message apparently to appease the threatening protests before they were called off.