France asks citizens to leave Pakistan in violent protest

Lahore, Pakistan — The French embassy in Pakistan on Thursday advised all citizens and businesses to leave the country temporarily after an anti-French violence broke out in the Islamic state over the arrest of radical leaders.

Saad Lizbi was arrested on Monday for threatening the government with a large-scale protest if he did not expel the French envoy Marc Valetti for portraying the publication of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Agnes von der Mühl, a spokeswoman for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Pakistan is home to about 400 to 500 French citizens and can depart on commercial flights.

There was no immediate comment from Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

However, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad said that the French people living in Pakistan were safe and provided them with security. At a press conference on Wednesday, he began operations against Lizbi supporters, who refused to end their sit-in peacefully. He said a government order had been formally issued to outlaw the Lizbi party, so that it would never cause such a situation in the future.

Car passes by the French Embassy
On April 15, 2021, a car passed by the French Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. (Anjum Naveed / AP Photo)

The latest developments will take place the day after the government announces a ban on the Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistani party led by Rizvi.

The arrest caused fierce protests by Lizbi followers who sat down on the highway and later blocked roads in major cities such as the southern port city of Karachi and the garrison of Rawalpindi.

They also sat in the capital Islamabad, blocking major roads when police began a national crackdown from Monday to Wednesday, causing clashes, killing two police officers and injuring 580. .. Three demonstrators also died in a police clash.

Thousands of Lizbi followers were still gathered in Lahore, the capital of eastern Punjab, where they have a strong presence.

According to Ahmed, the country’s interior minister, the cabinet has approved his proposal to outlaw the Lizbi Party. He said he could not accept Lizbi’s request because the expulsion of the French ambassador and the ban on French goods could harm national interests.

He said supporters of Lizbi, still rallying, would be severely treated by security forces.

Lizbi emerged as leader of Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Labiak party in November after the sudden death of his father, Kadim Hussein Lizbi. His party hopes to boycott French goods and expel the French ambassador by April 20, based on an agreement signed by the government.

Lizbi’s Tehreek-e-Labiak and other Islamic parties have accused French President Emmanuel Macron of defending the portrait of the Prophet Muhammad as freedom of expression since October last year. Macron’s comment came after a young Muslim bowed to a teacher at a French school who showed a portrait of the Prophet Muhammad in class.

The image was republished by the caricature magazine Charlie Hebdo, marking the start of a trial against a fatal attack in 2015 against the publication of the original caricature. It infuriated many Muslims in Pakistan and elsewhere who believed their portrayals were blasphemous.

By Babar Dogar