French citizens and companies in Pakistan have been advised by their embassies to leave temporarily after large parts of the country came to a standstill following violent protests in France.
Considered blasphemous by many Muslims, anti-French sentiment has been simmering in Pakistan for months since the prophet of Islam supported the right to publish a satirical magazine.
The Pakistani government on Thursday banned an extremist political party whose leader had called for a march on the capital to demand the deportation of the French ambassador.
Saad Rizvi, leader of the Tehreek-e-Lubaik Pakistan (TLP), was detained on Tuesday after thousands of his supporters threatened large-scale street protests in cities across the country. Two police officers were killed in clashes with protesters.
“Due to serious threats to French interests in Pakistan, French citizens and French companies have been advised to leave the country temporarily,” the embassy said in an email to French citizens. “Departures will be handled by existing commercial airlines.”
Additional security personnel were stationed inside the French diplomatic enclave, which was closed to the public, and the ship’s containers were fortified around its outer wall.
“Our police and Rangers are capable of dealing with the situation,” Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told a news conference. “All French citizens are safe here and there is no danger to them.”
But Ludo van Varen, a Frenchman living in Islamabad, said he would consider the embassy’s advice. “We’re a little shocked and they’re considering what to do,” he said. “After the events of the last few months, we’re not panicking, but we’re very vigilant. Now we’re trying to Things have changed.
Last year, some 445 French citizens and more than 30 companies were registered in Pakistan, according to a French government website.
The TLP has been protesting on the streets for several days in the past over blasphemy cases, which is a major obstacle.
Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Pakistan, where laws allow the death penalty for insulting Islam or Islamic figures.
Successive governments have avoided confrontation with hardline Islamic groups, fearing that crackdowns on religious parties could lead to widespread violence.
Ahmed told a news conference on Wednesday, “We are in favor of protecting the honor of the Prophet, but the demand he is seeking can be presented to Pakistan as a radical nation all over the world.” “
As of Thursday afternoon, the hashtag #FransLeavePacistan was trending on Twitter with over 55,000 tweets.
Last autumn there was an uproar when the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published the Prophet of Islam. Republished cartoons.
Macron’s free speech sparked outrage around the world, with tens of thousands of people from Pakistan, Iran and other Muslim countries taking to the streets and organizing anti-French boycotts.
At the time, Pakistan’s popular prime minister, Imran Khan, who is known for his country’s hardline religious base, accused Charlie Hebdo of republishing cartoons, saying “deliberate provocation” Should be declared null and void.
He accused Macron of attacking the Muslim religion and called on Islamic countries to work together to combat growing oppression in Europe.
A week later, a Pakistani man attacked the magazine’s former offices in Paris, injuring two people.
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