Pakistani government denounces Islamist march against French ambassador

Islamabad, Oct 29 (EFE).- The Pakistan government denounced Friday the Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan’s “misuse of religion” to “gain political power” and its protest march against the French ambassador, which has caused at least nine deaths since it began a week ago.

In a statement, the National Security Council (NSC) chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the TLP’s “misuse of religion and the issue of Namoos-e-Risalat (honoring the Prophet Muhammad) to gain political power.”

The body, which includes military and government brass, said it would not tolerate the party “employing violence against public property, state officials, and ordinary citizens to create instability in the country”.

At least nine people have been killed, including four policemen, and hundreds injured since the TLP began a march from the western city of Lahore to Islamabad to call on the country’s authorities to dismiss the French ambassador to Pakistan.

The petition dates back to November 2020, when thousands of people came out to protest against the French president and his endorsement of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad following the beheading of a school teacher who showed them to his students, comments that in certain sectors of the Islamic world were considered “blasphemous.”

The Pakistani government agreed to demands to expel the French ambassador from the country and cut bilateral relations, but has since reneged on its promise, the Islamists say.

“Despite the overwhelming majority of the over 1.5 billion Muslims globally holding utmost love and respect for our Prophet, no such violent agitation has taken place in any other Muslim country,” the Pakistani government said.

The Pakistani government has been forced to deploy the military Rangers in the western province of Punjab to stop the march.

Local daily Dawn reported that thousands of protesters affiliated with the TLP resumed marching towards Islamabad on Friday.

The TLP was a relatively unknown group until November 2017, when it blocked the Pakistani capital for 21 days and secured the resignation of the justice minister because they considered a change in the oath of high office blasphemous.

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