Charlie Hebdo protests grow across Pakistan

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Supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan carry placards and shout slogans during a protest against the reprint...Read More

ISLAMABAD: Thousands of

Islamist protesters

rallied in anti-France demonstrations across

Pakistan

on Friday as anger swelled over a

French magazine

's decision to republish cartoons of

the Prophet Mohammed.
Earlier this week satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo -- the target of a massacre by Islamist gunmen in 2015 -- reprinted the

controversial images

to mark the beginning of the trial of the alleged accomplices in the attack.
The publication's move sparked condemnation from Pakistan's foreign ministry along with calls from Islamists to hold protests following Friday prayers, spurring thousands to mass in cities where they called for boycotts and the French ambassador's expulsion.
"We need to send a strong message to the French that this disrespect to our beloved

prophet

will not be tolerated," protester

Muhammad Ansari

said during a demonstration in the eastern city of Lahore.
Images of the Prophet are proscribed in Islam. Insulting religion under Pakistan's

strict blasphemy laws

can carry the death penalty.
In the past, politicians have been assassinated, European countries threatened with nuclear annihilation and students lynched over blasphemy allegations.
Friday's demonstrations were largely led by the hardline Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, which has organised huge and often violent protests over alleged blasphemy in the past.
The group paralysed much of Pakistan in 2018 with riots after a Christian woman accused of blasphemy was acquitted by the country's supreme court.
Twelve people, including some of France's most celebrated cartoonists, were killed on January 7, 2015, when brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi went on a gun rampage at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris.
On Friday, the paper said its Wednesday edition sold out the first day, prompting it to print 200,000 more copies that will hit newsstands in the coming days.

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