France and Pakistan – Stained Ties
In France, tensions over Islam have gathered some attention in recent times. Almost 4,000 military troops were deployed in Nice, a city in France, to boost security at schools, churches, and other public places; after three people were stabbed to death by Muslims, the country issued a statement declaring a national emergency right after the incident. Emmanuel Macron, the French Republic’s current president, criticized the French Muslims and accused them of spreading separatism amongst the people; he also referred to Islam as “a religion in crisis worldwide”. The matter went out of hand when Macron said that his country would not renounce the Prophet Muhammad’s caricatures, which the French teacher showed in class before his death. Muslim population across the world have condemned France and Macron; countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan are having massive protests organized against France.
Following the incident, Pakistan saw mass protest organized by Saad Rizvi, the current Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) leader, and his supporters. TLP is a radical group that demands death for blasphemers, and strict implementations of its version of Islamic laws. In November 2020, the group organized marches against the anti-Islamic comments of Emmanuel Macron, they also wanted the expulsion of the French ambassador, Marc Barety, over the issue of publication of caricatures. Marc also received threat calls as Macron defended the act of publication of the caricature. The protests ended after the government agreed to place the issue of expulsion in front of the parliament.
While Anti-French sentiments were simmering in the people of Pakistan, On April 12, the Pakistani authorities arrested Saad Rizvi, the leader. The arrest resulted in protests and blockades of roads in Karachi’s main areas, Islamabad, by his supporters. To stop the protesters, the police authorities used tear gas and water cannons on the protesters, and as a result, three people lost their lives in the violent protest. The protesters demand immediate release of the TLP’s current leader, Saad Rizvi, and are also claiming that the government played them off by breaking the agreement.
While the protests continue in Karachi, more than 700 Sikh pilgrims who were headed to Gurudwara Panja Sahib on the occasion of Baisakhi were stuck in Lahore because of the rally. Meanwhile, a top Pakistani official said, “Pilgrims will be in Pakistan till April 22. Hopefully, they will be able to visit almost all the places.” According to reports, the MEA is constantly monitoring the pilgrims’ movement and is in touch with the Pakistani authorities.
As Pakistan is on the verge of a deadly third wave of coronavirus, Yasmine Rashid, a leading health official urged the protesters to not block the roads for the ambulance and visitors to the hospitals. “some ambulances are carrying oxygen cylinders which are extremely essential for critical Covid patients” she added. These protests can prove to be fatal as the covid cases are at an all-time high in the country.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, accused Macron of ‘attacking Islam’ and said that Macron is spreading and encouraging Islamophobia. The current situation has strained the bilateral ties between Pakistan and France as Pakistan is taking part in boycotting French products; Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Macron mentally ill and supported Imran Khan.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team