Pakistan parliament to vote on French envoy’s expulsion
By Islamuddin Sajid
ISLAMABAD (AA): After violent protests across the country, Pakistan’s government decided to seek a vote in parliament on Tuesday on whether to expel the French envoy over offensive caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad published in France last year, the interior minister said.
The expulsion of the ambassador was demanded by the far-right Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) group, which the government banned last week after its members blocked main highways, assaulting police, and burning public property.
“After hours-long negotiations between the government and Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan [TLP], it is decided that we will present a resolution in the National Assembly and Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan will call off its protest across the country,” Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, the interior minister, said in a video message.
“Talks will continue and the government will withdraw cases registered against the TLP workers,” he added.
His statement came after a meeting with leaders of the recently banned TLP in northeastern Lahore city, where the group held a sit-in after violent clashes with police.
Clashes erupted in Lahore on Sunday, the provincial capital of Punjab province, when police surrounded the group’s main office in an attempt to free the hostages “kidnapped” earlier in the day.
Deaths and injuries were reported during the clashes. The government, however, did not release any figures.
However, the policemen held hostage by the group were released on Monday after talks began between the two sides.
Protests had broken out in several Muslim countries over France’s response to the murder in October last year of a teacher who showed cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in class.
French President Emmanuel Macron said at the time that France would “not give up our cartoons” while accusing French Muslims of “separatism” and describing Islam as “a religion in crisis.”
On Monday, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said he will launch a campaign, seeking Muslim countries’ support to take up the simmering issues of blasphemy and Islamophobia at international forums, including the UN and the EU.
Photo: [Police officers stand guard outside the French consulate in Karachi, Pakistan on April 15, 2021. French Government advised all French nationals and companies to temporarily leave the country, after violent anti-France protests paralysed large parts of the country. Photographer: Sabir Mazhar/AA]
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