French embassy asks citizens to leave Pakistan over ‘serious threats’


Islamabad – Staff Reporter:

The French embassy in Pakistan on Thursday advised all French nationals and companies to temporarily leave the country, after violent anti-France protests paralysed large parts of the country this week.

The advisory by the French embassy in Pakistan comes amidst violent protests by a religious party.

“Due to the serious threats to French interests in Pakistan, French nationals and French companies are advised to temporarily leave the country,” the mission said in an email to French citizens.

“The departures will be carried out by existing commercial airlines.”

Three days of protests and clashes have led to chaos and the killing of three people, including two policemen, the Federal Ministry of Interior has said in a detailed report.

The protests were organised in different cities across the country, while sit-ins were also staged in many parts of the country, causing massive traffic jams and distress to the citizens.

It is pertinent to mention that the party behind the protests has demanded the expulsion of the French ambassador, ratification of a anti-blasphemy bill, and a ban on French goods.

The demands came in response to blasphemous sketches that were published in France, which had sparked protests across the Muslim world.

The Pakistani government had agreed to debate the demands in parliament and seek its approval to proceed, but the party in question attempted to strong-arm the state into implementing its wishes.

The religiopolitical party now faces imminent blacklisting as a terrorist organisation after violent protests led by its workers have seen mobs damage public and private property, harass citizens and attack the police, sometimes with fatal results.

TLP supporters brought the capital Islamabad to a standstill in November last year for three days with a series of anti-France rallies.

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in conservative Pakistan, where laws allow for the death penalty to be used on anyone deemed to have insulted Islam or Islamic figures.