Pakistan bows to Islamist hardliners | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 21, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:09 AM, April 21, 2021

Pakistan bows to Islamist hardliners

Parliament set to debate on expelling French ambassador on alleged blashphemy

Pakistan's parliament has postponed until Friday a debate on whether the country should expel the French ambassador, as the government bids to appease a radical party that has threatened more violent protests unless the envoy is kicked out. 

The Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) has waged an anti-France campaign for months since President Emmanuel Macron defended the right of a satirical magazine to republish cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) -- an act deemed blasphemous by many Muslims.

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Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed yesterday said the government had held negotiations with TLP leaders, who agreed to call off the protests after learning a resolution would be discussed in parliament on the future of the French envoy. However, TLP leaders said protests would continue.

At a special session of the National Assembly yesterday, the speaker pushed back a resolution by a ruling party member on the issue, saying it should be tabled collectively by the government and opposition, before adjourning until Friday.

Several police officers and TLP supporters were killed in clashes this week,.

The French embassy last week recommended all its citizens leave the country, and on Monday a source at the foreign ministry said Paris was recalling all non-essential staff and their families.

The Pakistan government banned the TLP last Wednesday -- effectively labelling the group a terror organisation -- and police arrested thousands of protesters during clashes, but Rashid said no action would be taken against them.   

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