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As France passes anti radicalism law, anti-France protests intensify in Pakistan, demands for expelling French ambassador grows

Pakistan Prime Minister has proclaimed of taking Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party's demand of expelling the French ambassador on the issue of blasphemy of Prophet Muhammad, to the Parliament before April 20

The relation between Pakistan and France, which was strained in the aftermath of the horrifying beheading of a teacher in October last year for showing drawings of Prophet Muhammad to his class, continues to remain bitter. On one hand, France has given a nod to the anti radicalism bill to counter the growing fundamentalism in the country. Parallelly, Pakistan continues to protest against France and it’s President Emmanuel Macron, who has vowed to curb Islamic terrorism in his country.

Miffed over Macron’s bold stance over Islamic fundamentalism, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has proclaimed of taking Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party’s demand of expelling the French ambassador on the issue of blasphemy of Prophet Muhammad, to the Parliament before April 20.

The Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan party, which spearheaded the anti-France protest in Pakistan, had last month, threatened to relaunch its protest if the Imran Khan Government did not fulfil its promise of expelling the French ambassador.

Meanwhile, France has denounced Imran Khan for yielding to TLP’s demand. The French daily newspaper Le Figaro has written that a source in Elysees has said that the move by Pakistan government to take the matter of the expulsion of the French ambassador to Parliament is “very badly perceived”.

“There were insulting remarks against the president (Macron) and it was taken in a personal capacity. And now the Pakistani government is considering putting the question of the ambassador’s expulsion to parliamentarians. It is very badly perceived,” Le Figaro quoted one source as saying.

According to the French daily, the relationship between France and Pakistan which was already weakened by a “slanderous tweet” against France from Shireen Mazari, the Pakistani minister of human rights in November 2020, has been further blurred after Imran Khan’s decision.

Pakistan has been antagonistic towards France ever since the French President has taken a stand against Islamic terrorism following the barbaric killing of the French teacher Samuel Paty, who had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad to his class. Paty was beheaded on October 16 by an 18-year-old Muslim extremist. Following the incident, France’s President Emmanuel Macron had condemned it calling it an “Islamist terrorist attack”.

The killing of Paty was the latest attack by a Muslim extremist in France, coming after the 2015 massacre at Charlie Hebdo magazine and the 2016 truck attack in Nice. 

French President Emmanuel Macron had then refused to condemn the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo which faced the ire of the Muslims for publishing cartoons of Prophet and vowed to fight Islamic separatism in the aftermath of the brutal killing of the French teacher Samuel Paty.

Ever since Muslims in many Islamic countries, especially Pakistan, have been calling for both protests and a boycott of French goods in response to Macron’s stance on caricatures of Islam’s most revered prophet.

Activists from the TLP party took to the streets, calling for the Pakistani government to sever diplomatic and trade ties with France.

In October, the Pakistan National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution condemning the publication of blasphemous caricatures in France and the “resurgence of Islamophobic acts” in some countries.

All these moves had already tarnished the relationship between France and Pakistan. To make matters worse, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his Tweet in October 2020, slammed the French President, saying that he has “chosen to deliberately provoke Muslims”. Taking to Twitter, Khan had said: “Hallmark of a leader is he unites human beings, as Mandela did, rather than dividing them. This is a time when Pres Macron could have put healing touch and denied space to extremists rather than creating further polarisation and marginalisation that inevitably leads to radicalisation.”

Adding salt to the injuries, the Pakistani minister of human rights, also took to Twitter a month later calling out the French President. She Tweeted that Emmanuel Macron was treating Muslims like Nazis treated Jews in World War II.

Linking an online article, Mazari had Tweeted: “Macron is doing to Muslims what the Nazis did to the Jews. Muslim children will get ID numbers (other children won’t) just as Jews were forced to wear the yellow star on their clothing for identification.” France had, however, taken offence to the Tweet and demanded that Shireen Mazari withdraws her remarks against the French President, after which the Pakistan minister had deleted her Tweet.

This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. In a major shot-in-the-arm for French President Emmanuel Macron, who had vowed to act against rising extremism in the country, the French legislators in the lower house of the parliament on Tuesday passed the anti-radicalisation bill, which will empower law enforcement officials to swiftly arrest a person for spreading hate online. The bill will enable agencies to charge a person with online hate speech law, which will be punishable by up to three years of imprisonment and a fine of 45,000 euros.

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