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Islamabad Blocked Off Over Anti-France Protest

Security personnel prepare for deployment beside shipping containers placed by authorities blocking the Islamabad-Rawalpindi highway to stop protesters from entering the capital for an anti-France rally.

Pakistan authorities sealed off a major road into Islamabad for a second day on November 16 as a far-right religious party held further protests against anti-France.

Around 1,000 protesters gathered at the roadblock preventing them from entering the capital, a day after 5,000 people rallied in neighboring Rawalpindi.

Authorities have suspended mobile phone services in Islamabad and surrounding areas since early on November 15 to prevent organisers from coordinating.

Pakistan has seen scattered protests since French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the beheading of a teacher by an extremist at a school near Paris last month.

The teacher had shown cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad during a class on free speech.

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

Prime Minister Imran Khan 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.

The November 15 march was organised by hard-line cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, whose party, Tehrik-e Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), is known for violent protests over the issue of perceived blasphemy.