Supporters of the outlawed Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan have been demanding the release of party leader, Saad Rizvi, who was arrested last year.

Saad Rizvi was arrested last year amid demonstrations against France over the publication of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.
Saad Rizvi was arrested last year amid demonstrations against France over the publication of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad. (Reuters)

Thousands of supporters of a banned conservative religious party have departed the eastern Pakistan city of Lahore, clashing for a second straight day with police who lobbed tear gas into the crowd.

The group began their journey on Friday with the goal of reaching the capital Islamabad to pressure the government to release Saad Rizvi, the head of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan party. 

Rizvi was arrested last year amid demonstrations against France over the publication of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.

Violent clashes erupted between security forces and activists in Lahore leaving at least two police and two demonstrators dead on Friday.

READ MORE: Four dead as Pakistan protests turn violent

Tense situation

Sajid Saifi, spokesman for Rizvi’s party, said supporters spent the night near the Ravi River bridge and in the early morning started again toward Islamabad amid heavy tear gas. 

Saifi said the huge crowd removed barricades and exited the city limits but again faced security forces near the town of Kala Shah Kako.

Saifi said “many” party supporters were injured by tear gas cannisters as they attempted to leave Lahore. 

Witnesses said the rallygoers were on foot but some vehicles moving alongside them to take the injured to hospitals and to bring food and water.

Rizvi’s party gained prominence in Pakistan’s 2018 elections, campaigning on a single issue: defending the country’s blasphemy law, which calls for the death penalty for anyone who insults Islam. 

It has a history of staging violent protests to pressure the government to accept its demands.

READ MORE: Pakistan to ban far-right religious party over violent protests

Source: TRTWorld and agencies