Pakistan: Anti-French Sentiments Boil Over, Paris Advises Citizens to Temporarily Leave
By: Mahak Arora
Due to the serious threats to its interests in Pakistan, France has advised its citizens and companies to temporarily leave the South-East Asian country following violent protests by a radical religious group that has now been banned by the government.
Intermittent clashes between supporters of Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) and law enforcement agencies had been reported around the country over the last three days. Seven fatalities and over 300 injuries to policemen have been reported so far.
The violence, according to Dawn.com, had sparked off on Monday when TLP supporters launched a violent demonstration looking to force the Imran Khan government to expel the French ambassador and ban French products in the country. Party chief Saad Hussain Rizvi was arrested on the same day.
This, in turn, brought out protestors demanding Rizvi’s release and the situation continued to deteriorate.
On Thursday, Pakistan interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed announced that the TLP was being banned under section 11B of the 1997 anti-terrorism act. In response to another question at the press conference, he said, "All French citizens are safe here. There was no threat to them."
Anti-French sentiments have been building up in Pakistan ever since French President Emmanuel Macron - in October last year - defended Paris-based Charlie Hebdo’s publication of Prophet Muhammad’s caricatures and pledged to fight “Islamist separatism”. His government has, since then, passed laws that have made it difficult for Muslim religious organisations and communities to function within its borders.
TLP had led similar violent countrywide protests in November, last year. According to Dawn.com, they had only ended their agitation after an agreement was reached with the government that promised to decide the matter in three months.
After the November protest, party leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi died of natural causes and his son Saad Rizvi became the leader. Under his way, TLP, from February, renewed its demands with more agitation.
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