(Update 1: Adds Pakistan’s reaction, changes datelines)
Paris/Islamabad, Apr 15 (EFE).- France has advised its nationals in Pakistan to leave the country and warned of an imminent threat to French interests there amid deadly anti-France protests by an Islamist group over cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
The foreign ministry on Thursday urged the French nationals in the South Asian country to relocate “temporarily” using commercial flights as violent protests rocked large parts of the country this week.
Later on Thursday, the Pakistani government insisted that French nationals were safe in the country.
“With the blessings of God all the french citizens are safe in Pakistan. there is no threat to them,” Pakistani Foreign Minister Sheikh Rashid said in a press conference.
The French ministry had on Mar. 29 already asked French nationals in Pakistan to be on alert due to the risk of attack amid calls for demonstrations and boycott of French products.
The latest advisory came a day after the Pakistan government said it would ban the Islamist group, Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), which organized deadly protests over French President Emmanuel Macron’s defense of the alleged blasphemous cartoons.
At least three people lost their lives, and hundreds suffered injuries as Islamist protesters clashed with police at various places in Pakistan on Monday and Tuesday.
The clashes took place as members of the radical group took to the streets in major Pakistan cities after police arrested their leader Saad Rizvi.
Rizvi had given the ultimatum, asking the government to expel the French diplomat by Apr. 20 over the cartoons that Islamists say were blasphemous to the Prophet.
Police arrested him Monday, sparking protests in various cities across the country.
The protests paralyzed businesses in Pakistan and disrupted routine life across the country, particularly Punjab, the most populous province.
The Islamist party claims that the government in November last year agreed that it would cut off diplomatic ties with France and expel the French envoy.
Macron had defended the cartoons with some alleged insulting remarks about Islam in October last year.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan had accused Macron of attacking and ridiculing Islam and hurting the sentiments of millions of Muslims across the world following his comments.
Macron made the remarks after a young Chechen Islamist, on Oct. 16, beheaded a French schoolteacher for showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to pupils in a lesson about freedom of expression. EFE