PICS: Anti-French Riots Sweep Swathes of Pakistan

Pakistan
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images

Swathes of Pakistan have been swept by anti-French riots and French citizens advised to leave the country after an Islamist politician was arrested for saying their ambassador should be expelled from the South Asian country.

There has been simmering anger against the French government and people in Pakistan since President Emmanuel Macron defended his citizens’ freedom to make and share images of the Islamic prophet following the public beheading of history and geography teacher Samuel Paty in 2020.

Sharing such images would constitute blasphemy — a crime punishable by death — in Pakistan, which is officially an Islamic republic.

 

Pakistan

Supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) gather on a blocked street to protest against the arrest of their leader as he was demanding the expulsion of the French ambassador over depictions of Prophet Muhammad, in Peshawar on April 13, 2021. (Photo by Abdul MAJEED / AFP) (Photo by ABDUL MAJEED/AFP via Getty Images)

 

Pakistan

A supporter of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) prepares to throw a stone towards police during a protest in Lahore on April 12, 2021, after the arrest of their leader, who has called for the expulsion of the French ambassador. (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP) (Photo by ARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images)

 

Pakistan

Riot policemen fire teargas shell towards supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) during a protest against the arrest of their leader as he was demanding the expulsion of the French ambassador over depictions of Prophet Muhammad, in Barakahu neighbourhood of Islamabad on April 13, 2021. (Photo by Aamir QURESHI / AFP) (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images)

 

Mr Paty was targeted by a Muslim refugee from Chechnya, a Muslim-majority constituent republic of the Russian Federation, after showing images of Mohammed from the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo during a class on freedom of expression.

The offices of Charlie Hebdo were themselves targeted by Islamist gunmen in 2015, with 17 people including journalists at the magazine, police protection officers, and a maintenance worker being murdered.

 

Pakistan

Supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) gather on a blocked street to protest against the arrest of their leader as he was demanding the expulsion of the French ambassador over depictions of Prophet Muhammad, in Peshawar on April 13, 2021. (Photo by Abdul MAJEED / AFP) (Photo by ABDUL MAJEED/AFP via Getty Images)

 

Pakistan

TOPSHOT – Policemen beat a supporter of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party during a protest against the arrest of their leader as he was demanding the expulsion of the French ambassador over depictions of Prophet Muhammad, in Lahore on April 13, 2021. (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP) (Photo by ARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images)

 

Pakistan

Police personnel use teargas shell to disperse supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party during a protest against the arrest of their leader as he was demanding the expulsion of the French ambassador over depictions of Prophet Muhammad, in Karachi on April 13, 2021. (Photo by Asif HASSAN / AFP) (Photo by ASIF HASSAN/AFP via Getty Images)

 

The latest round of violence was prompted by the Pakistani government’s move to arrest Saad Rizvi, leader of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), and ban the Islamist party, after the 26-year-old extremist threatened to organise mass demonstrations if the French ambassador was not expelled from the country.

The Pakistani government is far from moderate on the issue of Mohammed images itself, however, with Prime Minister Imran Khan — who once played for Sussex County Cricket Club and the University of Oxford in England — having declared that “blasphemy in the garb of freedom of expression is intolerable”, denouncing France’s Macron for “hurting the feelings” of Islam’s “peaceful followers” and demanding that “wilful provocations” be “universally outlawed” at the United Nations.

 

Pakistan

Police use tear gas to disperse supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) during a protest in Lahore on April 12, 2021, after the arrest of their leader, who has called for the expulsion of the French ambassador. (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP) (Photo by ARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images)

 

Pakistan

Police use tear gas to disperse supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) during a protest in Lahore on April 12, 2021, after the arrest of their leader, who has called for the expulsion of the French ambassador. (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP) (Photo by ARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images)

 

Pakistan

Supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party shout slogans during a protest against the arrest of their leader as he was demanding the expulsion of the French ambassador over depictions of Prophet Muhammad, in Lahore on April 13, 2021. (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP) (Photo by ARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images)

 

The anti-French riots have prompted the French embassy to urge its citizens in the country to flee — at least for the time being — despite its official discouragement of international travel due to the ongoing Chinese coronavirus pandemic.

“Due to the serious threats to French interests in Pakistan, French nationals and French companies are advised to temporarily leave the country,” the embassy warned, adding that flights out of the country would be “carried out by existing commercial airlines.”

 

Pakistan

Supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party block a road as riot policemen fire teargas shell during a protest against the arrest of their leader as he was demanding the expulsion of the French ambassador over depictions of Prophet Muhammad, in Islamabad on April 13, 2021. (Photo by Aamir QURESHI / AFP) (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images)

 

Pakistan

Police use water cannons to disperse supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party during a protest against the arrest of their leader as he was demanding the expulsion of the French ambassador over depictions of Prophet Muhammad, in Lahore on April 13, 2021. (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP) (Photo by ARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images)

 

Pakistan

Supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party throw stones towards police during a protest against the arrest of their leader as he was demanding the expulsion of the French ambassador over depictions of Prophet Muhammad, in Lahore on April 13, 2021. (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP) (Photo by ARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images)

 

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