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Pakistan shuts down access to Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites after violent protests 

Pakistan blocked access to all social media after days of violent anti-France protests by radical Islamists over 'blasphemous' cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. 

Facebook and Twitter and other sites have been temporarily blocked on orders from the country's interior ministry said Khurram Mehran, a spokesman for Pakistan's media regulatory agency.

A reason for the block has not been provided and comes as police officials prepare to clear a large demonstration in the eastern city of Lahore.

It also follows just hours after the government said the leader of the outlawed Islamist political party, Saad Rizvi, at the forefront of the protests, had urged his supporters to stand down.

Police have clashed with supporters of Islamic political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) across the country, including Peshawar (pictured), this week as protests turned violent

Protests were sparked after Islamic political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) leader Saad Rizvi was detained for threatening protests if the government did not expel the French ambassador before April 20. Pictured: Protesters in Lahore earlier this week

The group have staged anti-France demonstrations in Lahore (pictured) this week against the country after President Emmanuel Macron tried to defend blasphemous caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad as freedom of expression in October last year

In the latest update from Pakistan, the government has instated a temporary block on social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter. Pictured: Police fire tear gas to disperse angry supporters of Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan protesting in Peshawar, Pakistan

Pakistani security officials stand beside a burning vehicle after TLP supporters blocked a road to demand the release of their leader Saad Hussain Rizvi, in Rawalpindi

The government released a note it claims was handwritten by Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan party leader Saad Rizvi, in the hope it would calm tensions after days of violent protests, in which two police officers were killed and 580 injured. 

Three demonstrators also died in the clashes with security agencies and the government has imposed a ban on the party. 

A photo of the statement was released earlier by an advisor to the prime minister on Twitter, but neither Rizvi himself or any of his party leadership was immediately available for comment.

In the statement, Rizvi asked his supporters to peacefully disperse for the good of the country and end their main sit-in that began Monday after police arrested the radical cleric for threatening protests if the government did not expel the French ambassador before April 20. 

Some of his followers insisted they hear or see the words come from Rizvi himself before stopping and the Lahore protest continued after Friday prayers.

On Thursday, the French embassy in Pakistan advised all of its nationals and companies to temporarily leave the Islamic country, after violence erupted over Rizvi's arrest.

Paramilitary soldiers were seen patrolling a blocked street with what appears to be hundreds of rocks by their feet which may have been pelted at them during the protests in Lahore this week

The government released a note it says was handwritten by Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan party leader Saad Rizvi, in which he reportedly told his supporters to peacefully disperse for the good of the country. Pictured: Protests in Peshawar this week

Supporters of Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan pray while blocking a road during a sit-in protest in Lahore on Wednesday

After the protests turned violent, France urged its citizens to leave the country as a result of the violence. Pictured: TLP supporters hold bamboo sticks while shouting slogans during protest in Peshawar

Pakistani security officials arrest supporters of Islamic political party TLP after they blocked a road in Rawalpindi

Supporters of Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan, a radical Islamist political party, chant slogans during a protest against the arrest of their party leader, Saad Rizvi, in Lahore, Pakistan, yesterday

Intervening security forces in Peshawar were seen moving protesters along and clashing with TLP supporters during their anti-France protests

Some of Rizvi's followers insisted they hear or see the words come from him before stopping and the Lahore protest continued after Friday prayers. Pictured: Protests in Peshawar on Tuesday

Violent protests have been going on in Lahore since Monday, damaging private and public property and disrupting the much-needed supply of oxygen to hospitals.

Some of the affected included COVID-19 patients, who were on oxygen support.

Rizvi's arrest sparked violent protests by his followers, who disrupted traffic by staging sit-ins across the country. 

Although security forces cleared almost all of the rallies, thousands of Rizvi´s followers are still assembled in Lahore, vowing to die in order to protect the honor of Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

Rizvi became the leader of the outlawed Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan party in November after the sudden death of his father, Khadim Hussein Rizvi. His party also wants the government to boycott French products.

In preparation, a crane was used to place a shipping contained on a street in Islamabad to block a street leading to the Red Zone near the French embassy 

Pakistani security officials remove the protest camp set up by supporters of TLP in Hyderabad

To beef up security, officials have also installed barbed wires on the road leading to the French embassy in Islamabad

Rizvi's arrest sparked violent protests by his followers, who disrupted traffic by staging sit-ins across the country. Pictured: Police officers stand guard outside the French consulate in Karachi

Rizvi's outlawed party has denounced French President Emmanuel Macron since October last year, saying he tried to defend blasphemous caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad as freedom of expression. 

Macron had spoken after a young Muslim beheaded a French school teacher who had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in class.

The images had been republished by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to mark the opening of the trial over the deadly 2015 attack against the publication for the original caricatures.

That enraged many Muslims in Pakistan and elsewhere who believe those depictions were blasphemous.

Rizvi's group in recent years became known for opposing any change to the country's harsh blasphemy laws, under which anyone accused of insulting Islam or other religious figures can be sentenced to death if found guilty.

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