Amid violent protests led by far-right parties opposed to France, Paris has called on its citizens and French agencies to leave temporarily.
Islamabad, Pakistan – The French embassy in Pakistan has advised all French citizens and organizations to leave the country temporarily, following violent protests by a right-wing party accused of “condemning” French President Emmanuel Macron.
An official at the French embassy confirmed the development to Al Jazeera on Thursday on condition of anonymity.
“I am convinced that due to the situation in Pakistan, we have advised French citizens and organizations to leave the country temporarily,” the official said.
A second French official said the embassy in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, would remain open, with some staff leaving the country.
The French-based AFP news agency quoted an email advising French nationals in Pakistan to leave.
“French citizens and French companies have been advised to leave the country temporarily due to serious threats to French interests in Pakistan,” the embassy said in an email, AFP reported.
“Departures will be handled by existing commercial airlines.”
Pakistan’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment by Al Jazeera on Thursday’s incident.
The anti-French sentiment has been at the center of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) message since the anti-government protests last November. Comments by Macron Which many, including Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, thought were “encouraging Islamophobia.”
The protests were called off after the TLP reached an agreement with the Pakistani government to expel the French ambassador, boycott all French goods and ask for further action before parliament.
This week, though, is violent The protest began Across the country, the government appeared to be taking the lead in expelling the TLP chief Saad Rizvi from the French ambassador before the April 20 deadline set by the TLP.
At least two police officers were killed and hundreds of protesters were injured in clashes across the country.
Large rallies were held in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, in the eastern city of Lahore, near the capital Islamabad, and elsewhere.
Inter-city highways and roads were closed for most of Monday and Tuesday as protests and clashes continued. Police in riot gear fired water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters in several areas.
On Wednesday, Home Minister Sheikh Rashid said the government had and had cleared most of the protests Moving towards prohibition TLP under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
The November protests followed Macron’s support for the right to republish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, considered “reprehensible” by many Muslims.
The caricatures in question are also seen by many as Islamophobic, as they often associate faith with “terrorism”.
Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Pakistan, where it is a crime to insult the Prophet of Islam, holy books or other religious figures who may carry these incidents. The death penalty.
A study by Al Jazeera found that at least 78 people have been killed in such violence since 1990, and increasingly, condemnation allegations have led to violence by carrying out mass or targeted attacks.
In the latest such incident, religious scholar Taki Shah, a member of the minority Shia Muslim community, was killed in Zhang in March on charges of “condemning”.
Asad Hashim is a digital correspondent for Al Jazeera in Pakistan. He tweeted @AsadHashim.