The French embassy in Pakistan issued an advisory on Thursday asking its nationals to leave Pakistan amid serious threats by the hardline Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan who has recently organized country-wide anti-France protests. Even though there are no reports of the agitated protestors attacking any French citizens, the embassy justified this move as “precautionary.”
According to the details, France has advised its nationals in Pakistan to leave the country after violent anti-France protests by the Islamist Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan. In an email to its citizens, the French embassy said: “Due to the serious threats to French interests in Pakistan, French nationals and French companies are advised to temporarily leave the country.
“The departures will be carried out by existing commercial airlines.”
Veronique Wagner, French embassy’s press attache, confirmed the advisory to the media, saying: “We can confirm that we have sent a precautionary note to all our citizens in Pakistan advising them to temporarily leave the country if possible due to the recent protests that have caused graver security threats and put its citizens at risk.”
Wagner said that the embassy will not be completely closed, but will continue to function with a limited staff.
The advisory came in the wake of the recent country-wide anti-France protests organized by the hardline Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan after the arrest of its leader Saad Rizvi by the police. The protests have paralyzed large parts of the city, including Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi.
Strong anti-French sentiments have been brewing in Pakistan after French President Emmanual Macron’s comments in October last year where he called Islam “a religion in crisis” globally. Macron defended the publication of the controversial caricatures of Prophet Muhammad and pledged to fight the burgeoning sentiments of “Islamic separatism.”
Macron’s comments were made in the wake of the murder of French teacher Samuel Paty who was decapitated by a radical Islamist for showing the caricatures of Prophet Muhammad to his class.
Macron’s comments angered a large section of the Pakistani society. Capitalizing on the situation, the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan further fanned the anti-French flames by organizing massive protests and demonstrations and demanding that the government expel the French ambassador and boycott all sorts of French products.
Earlier this week, the TLP supporters once again took to the streets to force the PTI-led government to expel the French ambassador from the country and ban French products. The government retaliated by apprehending Saad Rizvi – leader of the TLP and the son of the late Khadim Hussain Rizvi – and imposing a ban on the party.