Muslims in Pakistan have called for the expulsion of the Dutch ambassador as a protest was launched against a far-right Dutch politician's plan for a blasphemous cartoon competition depicting Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and his progeny.
Several thousand activists gathered in the eastern city of Lahore for the demonstration organized by Tehreek-e-Labbaik party on Wednesday.
Party leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi set out from Lahore's historic center at the head of a protest he aims to take through the towns of Punjab province to the capital Islamabad. Angry protesters will stage a sit-in to pressure Pakistan's new Prime Minister Imran Khan to cut diplomatic ties with the Netherlands.
Officials from the Punjab provincial government met with Labbaik leaders in Lahore in a vain attempt to persuade them to call off their protest.
"We told them to stop the protests because the Pakistan government is taking up the issue effectively," an official involved in the talks said, adding that Labbaik representatives insisted the protest would only end once the Dutch envoy was expelled.
"The Dutch ambassador should be immediately deported," Labbaik spokesman Ejaz Ashrafi said, adding, "We will only stop when the government meets this demand."
Pakistan has already complained to the Dutch government about far-right parliamentarian Geert Wilders' plans for a cartoon contest that will upset the world’s Muslims.