• Sunday, May 09, 2021
  • Last Update : 11:52 pm

Pakistan parliament defers debate on French envoy's expulsion

  • Published at 10:04 pm April 23rd, 2021
Pakisan Protests
Supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party hold placards as they shout slogans during a protest in Lahore on April 20, 2021 AFP

A resolution tabled on Wednesday called for the national assembly to debate whether to expel the French envoy

Pakistan's parliament on Friday again deferred debating the fate of the French ambassador, with the government seemingly putting a lid on bloody anti-France protests that rocked the country for a week.

A resolution tabled on Wednesday called for the national assembly to debate whether to expel the French envoy, for the assembly to condemn Western blasphemy, for Muslim nations to unite on the issue, and for authorities to provide space in cities for future protests.

But on Friday's session descended into rowdiness after members disagreed on how to proceed -- with some chanting anti-French slogans and others displaying a poster calling for the envoy to be booted out.

The speaker adjourned the session indefinitely.

Still, the resolution appears to have taken the steam out of an anti-France campaign waged for months by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) since President Emmanuel Macron defended the right of a satirical magazine to republish cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed -- an act deemed blasphemous by many Muslims.

Supporters of the upstart radical party protested violently across the country last week when its leader was arrested after calling for a march on the capital to demand the French envoy's expulsion.

As the protests grew, the French embassy recommended all its citizens leave the country -- a call that appeared to go largely unheeded.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed -- who negotiated an end to the protests with TLP leaders -- said five police officers and eight protesters were killed.

Protesters also held hostage 11 police officers and two special rangers for hours, before releasing them bruised and bloodied.

Few issues are as galvanizing in Pakistan as blasphemy, and even the slightest suggestion of an insult to Islam can supercharge protests, incite lynchings, and unite the country's warring political parties.

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