France has urged all its citizens in Pakistan to leave the country temporarily amid violent anti-French protests across the country. The embassy of France in Pakistan has warned of serious threats to its citizens, saying that protest is increasing nationwide.
Two police officers died this week in renewed clashes with protesters. The protests were sparked months ago after France defended the right to show cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. In October last year, French President Emmanuel Macron strongly defended freedom of expression after the beheading of a teacher who showed such cartoons during a class discussion.
The protests escalated this week after Pakistani government arrested Saad Hussain Rizvi, leader of the hard-line political party Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), which has called for the expulsion of the French ambassador. Mr Rizvi’s arrest, and a move by the Pakistani authorities to ban the TLP, brought thousands of the party’s supporters into the streets in Pakistan to protest. Police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon at the crowds.