Mohammed cartoons: Islamist group says Islamabad agrees to boycott France | News | DW

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A radical Sunni Islamist party said on Friday it was ending its anti-France protests after reaching a deal with the government. He said the authorities had agreed to release the protesters and cut diplomatic relations with France.The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party had launched protest rallies in the city of Rawalpindi in an attempt to reach the neighboring city of Islamabad, the capital of the Islamic country.

Read more: Pakistan: thousands of people call to sever ties with France to defend caricatures of prophets

Islamist groups in Pakistan were furious to see Frenchman Emmanuel Macron defending his country’s free speech laws following the murder of a teacher who had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad to his class.

The Islamist group demanded that the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan impose an official boycott of French products and expel the French ambassador from the country.

Read more: France Muhammad cartoon line: what you need to know

Deal or no deal?

Shafiq Amini, a spokesperson for the TLP, said on Tuesday that the government had accepted the protesters’ demands. The agreement was reportedly signed by the ministers of interior and religious affairs, as well as by the commissioner of Islamabad.

But a senior government official told AFP news agency on condition of anonymity that “the government had no intention of cutting diplomatic relations with any country,” adding that the situation had been “managed accordingly” for ensure the peaceful departure of the demonstrators.

The French Embassy has not yet commented on the TLP-government agreement.

Read more: Muhammad comic strip: anti-France protests erupt in the Muslim world

Blasphemy – a matter of life and death

Blasphemy is a controversial issue in Pakistan, where anyone deemed to have insulted Islam or the Prophet Muhammad can be sentenced to death under the country’s blasphemy laws. Human rights activists say laws are often enforced in cases that have little to do with blasphemy and are used to settle petty disputes and personal blood feuds. Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis – a minority Islamic sect – are often victims.

Asia Bibi’s blasphemy sparked TLP protests in Pakistan

In November 2018, the TLP called off protests that had crippled the nation after reaching a deal with the government over the legal future of Asia Bibi, a Christian acquitted of blasphemy. TLP supporters staged three days of sit-ins and protests after Pakistan’s Supreme Court overturned Bibi’s blasphemy conviction, ending his eight years on death row.

shs / ​​dj (AFP, AP, Reuters)



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