Pakistan begins parliamentary debate to discuss expulsion of French envoy
(Update 1: changes headline, lede, adds details)
Islamabad,Apr 20 (EFE).- The Pakistani parliament on Tuesday began a debate, which was later postponed to Friday, over the expulsion of the French ambassador after a week of violent Islamist protests over controversial cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, in which four people were killed and 800 injured.
The government tabled a resolution in the National Assembly, the lower house of the parliament, to discuss and vote whether to expel the French envoy after signing an agreement with the recently-banned Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) to end the protests.
The resolution also condemned the publication of the Muhammad cartoons by French magazine Charlie Hebdo and criticized French President Emmanuel Macron for allegedly hurting the sentiments of hundreds of millions of Muslims with his comments.
After this resolution was approved, there was a debate in which the government and the opposition both stressed their love for the Prophet, but there was no discussion as yet on the ambassador’s expulsion and the debate was postponed until Friday.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid had announced the agreement with the TLP Tuesday morning, ending protests in which major roads were blocked in many cities of the country over the past week.
TLP spokesperson Ali Raza sent a video to EFE in which Rashid appears to pledge freeing the arrested protesters and withdraw criminal charges against them.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a televised speech Monday, said the expulsion of the French ambassador would only harm Pakistan because half of the country’s exports go to the European Union.
Deadly clashes broke out as members of the radical group took to the streets in major Pakistan cities after police arrested their leader Saad Rizvi.
Rizvi had given an ultimatum, asking the government to expel the French diplomat by Apr. 20 over the cartoons that Islamists say were blasphemous to the Prophet.
Last week the French government advised its nationals to leave Pakistan in the wake of growing threats.
The protests over the past week 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.
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