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Islamists take out a protest march in Lahore over the burning of Quran in Sweden while fellow citizens fight over food

Journalist Abhijit Majumder shared a snippet on Twitter on January 30, wherein several Pakistanis were seen taking out a rally in Lahore to denounce the recent desecration of the religious Islamic text.

Pakistan’s economic situation is precarious. It has reached a critical juncture as the Islamic country grapples with expanding debt, rising energy import costs, depleted foreign reserves, global inflation, political instability, and a protracted decline in GDP growth. Furthermore, the country’s severe flour shortage and electricity cuts are exacerbating the situation.

Some citizens, however, have interesting priorities. While hundreds of fellow citizens have been rioting over food shortages, some have taken to the streets in Lahore to protest the burning of a copy of the Quran by anti-immigrant politician Rasmus Paludan in Stockholm, Sweden.

Journalist Abhijit Majumder shared a snippet on Twitter on January 30, wherein several Pakistanis were seen taking out a rally in Lahore to denounce the recent desecration of the religious Islamic text. As seen in the video, many people are perched atop a large trailer while hundreds more can be seen on foot. Huge speakers are mounted on the truck, through which chants of ‘Al Jihad’ can be heard. A large police contingent is also seen forming a human chain to protect the protestors.

These Islamists, according to media reports, belonged to the extremist group Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). In his statement to the demonstrators on Friday (January 27), TLP leader Saad Rizvi urged the government to lodge a strong protest with Sweden and the Netherlands to ensure that such occurrences are not repeated again.

Other videos showing members of the radical Islamist organisation protesting in Lahore over the burning of the Quran in Sweden also emerged on social media.

Similar rallies were also held in other parts of Pakistan including the southern city of Karachi and in the northwest.

Tehreek-e-Labbaik, the once-banned Islamic extremist political party in Pakistan

Notably, the Islamic extremist political party in Pakistan named Tehreek-e-Labbaik has been involved in various violent protests in the recent past. In fact, last year, the Pakistani radical organization had made plans to kill former BJP leader Nupur Sharma for making ‘derogatory’ statements about Prophet Muhammad.

The Islamic organisation had in 2021, organised violent protests in France and elsewhere around the world in response to cartoons of Prophet Mohammad published by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The outfit had then demanded the expulsion of France’s ambassador and the release of their leader. While protesting against the Charlie Hebdo cartoon in Lahore, the members of TLP opened fire on the cops leaving at least four Pakistani policemen dead.

This particular radical outfit was banned until November 2021, when former Prime Minister Imran Khan succumbed to the pressure of radical Islamists and gave his permission to lift the ban on the extremist group Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). As a result, the organization was withdrawn from the Fourth Schedule which is the official terrorist watch list of Pakistan.

Notably, the TTP has now established itself as an indisputable power in Pakistan’s political scene. The extremist organisation even formed a parallel government in the country earlier this month.

Food crisis in Pakistan

While members of the extremist group Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) have been creating havoc in Lahore over the burning of a copy of the Quran in Sweden, it may be recalled how hundreds of Pakistanis have been baying for each other’s blood amid a severe food crisis in the country. While on one hand, the government supply of subsidised wheat has nearly stopped altogether, the prices of other essentials have skyrocketed on the other. Stores and grocery shops have run out of kitchen staples. The shortage of wheat flour has led to an increase in the prices of bread and bakery items too. 

The situation in several cities of Pakistan is so grave that flour is being rationed and guarded by armed guards. Prices of flour and wheat have witnessed a dramatic surge. 

Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, and Balochistan are among the worst sufferers as tens of thousands spend hours daily to get the subsidized bags of flour that are already short in supply in the market.

Incidents of clashes and stampedes have been reported in markets in many areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, and Balochistan. The situation is so dire that flour-loaded mini trucks and vans are escorted by armed guards to avoid clashes. As these vehicles reach the markets, people gather around these vehicles and start fighting with each other and snatching sacks of flour and wheat from the authorities and each other.

Prices of wheat and flour have surged dramatically in recent months. Flour in Karachi is being sold from Rs 140 per kilogram to Rs 160 per kilogram. In Islamabad and Peshawar, a 10 kg bag of flour is being sold at Rs 1,500 per kilogram while a 20-kilogram bag of flour is being sold at Rs 2,800. Mill owners in Punjab province have increased the price of flour to Rs 160 per kilogram. 

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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