Pakistani Islamic party calls to expel Dutch ambassador

Geert Wilders surrounded by bodyguards, Spijkenesse Feb 2017
Geert Wilders surrounded by bodyguards, Spijkenesse Feb 2017Photo: Peter van der Sluijs / Wikimedia Commons

On Wednesday an Islamic party in Pakistan, TLP, called on the government to expel the Dutch ambassador to the country, in reaction to PVV leader Geert Wilders' plans to hold a cartoon competition about the Islam religious figure Mohammed, reports.

The call to expel the Dutch ambassador came on the same day as thousands of people started a protest march from Lahore to the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, a distance of around 300 kilometers. The march was organized by TLP, a far-right Islamic party that considers itself "the defender of the law and punisher of blasphemy". In the previous elections in Pakistan, the TLP became the fifth largest party in the country, according to the newspaper.

TLP leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi said the demonstration will continue until Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Kahn breaks all diplomatic ties with the Netherlands. "The Dutch ambassador must be expelled immediately", a TLP spokesperson said to Reuters on Wednesday. "We will not stop until the government meets this requirement."

Wilders plans to hold a cartoon competition featuring the prophet Mohammed in the PVV's chamber in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, in November. According to the PVV leader, he already received hundreds of submissions for the contest. Depicting the prophet Mohammed is considered sacrilege, and therefore forbidden, in large parts of the Islamic world. 

On Tuesday a 26-year-old man was arrested in The Hague for posting a video on Facebook in which he said he came to the Netherlands to kill Wilders. According to the police, this threat is linked to the cartoon contest. 

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte already stressed that the Dutch government has nothing to do with Wilders' competition, and that the competition is allowed under the right to freedom of speech. Minister Stef Blok of Foreign Affairs also consulted with his counterpart in Pakistan and explained that the cartoon contest is the initiative of a parliamentarian, and not of the Dutch government.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi previously said that he wants to put this matter before the United Nations and other world leaders. "They do not understand how much pain they cause us with these actions", Prime Minister Kahn said earlier this week. 

While the cartoon competition is causing an uproar in Pakistan, other countries with a majority Islamic population are not paying it much attention, NOS correspondent Marcel van der Steen said to the broadcaster. The arrest of the man who threatened to kill Wilders was picked up by the media in the Middle East, but so far did not lead to protests. "Whether the impact will change after new images of demonstrations in Pakistan is difficult to say", he added. 

The competition and arrest also did not cause much of a fuss in Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world. "It was reported in small news reports and readers clicked some angry emoticons", NOS correspondent Michel Maas said. "After that, it became quiet. And that will probably remain the case, unless a storm breaks out in November."