Anti-French protests continue near Pakistan's capital, police close major road

·2-min read

Authorities in Pakistan have closed off a major road into the capital Islamabad for a second day as a far-right religious party held fresh anti-France protests.

A rally in the neighbouring city of Rawalpindi which attracted 5,000 people on Sunday continued into Monday, with around a thousand protesters gathered at the police roadblock preventing them from entering the capital.

Commuters faced lengthy delays on alternative routes into the city.

Mobile phone services were restored around lunchtime on Monday, after having been suspended for more than 24 hours to prevent rally organisers from coordinating their activities.

Weeks of scattered protests

Pakistan has seen small and scattered protests over the past few weeks in response to French President Emmanuel Macron's recent remarks on Islam.

The French president spoke out after an extremist beheaded a teacher near Paris after he showed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed during a class on free speech. All depictions of the Prophet are forbidden by Islam.

The president said the teacher "was killed because Islamists want our future".

Macron's comments triggered anger across the Muslim world, with tens of thousands of protestors in Pakistan, neighbouring Iran and other Muslim countries in South Asia flooding the streets and organising anti-French boycotts.

France accused of 'Islamophobic camapign'

Pakistan has lodged a complaint with France over what it called a "systematic Islamophobic campaign" in the European nation.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has accused the French president of attacking the Muslim faith and urged Islamic countries to work together to counter what he called growing repression in Europe.

Blasphemy is a particularly contentious issue in ultra-conservative Pakistan, where anyone deemed to have insulted Islam or Islamic figures can face the death penalty.

Sunday's march was organised by hardline cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, whose party, Tehreek-Labaik Pakistan, is known for violent protests over the issue.