Pakistan, France relations still ‘poisoned’ over Prophet Muhammad caricature controversy: Report

Paris: Ties between Pakistan and France continue to remain “poisoned” even four months after the controversy over caricatures of the Prophet, which led to thousands of anti-French protestors rallying the streets of Pakistan against President Emmanuel Macron, reported Paris-based the Le Figaro daily.

Many of the protests in Pakistan were organised by far-right party Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). It demanded the “expelling the French ambassador, severing ties with France and boycotting French products”.

Recently, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has said his government would take the matter of TLP, which had been threatening to stage a sit-in in Islamabad against the government’s failure to meet its demand, to parliament before April 20.

According to a source in Elysees, the move by Pakistan government to take the matter to Parliament is “very badly perceived”. 

“There were insulting remarks against the president (Macron) and it was taken in a personal capacity. And now the Pakistani government is considering putting the question of the ambassador’s expulsion to parliamentarians. It is very badly perceived,” Le Figaro quoted one source as saying. 

 In November 2020, a “slanderous tweet” against France from Shireen Mazari, the Pakistani minister of human rights, had already blurred relations, the newspaper said. 

Mazari had deleted the objectionable tweet, where she said that French President Emmanuel Macron was treating Muslims like Nazis treated Jews in World War II, after France demanded that she withdraw her remarks.

In a tweet linking to an online article, Mazari on had said: “Macron is doing to Muslims what the Nazis did to the Jews — Muslim children will get ID numbers (other children won’t) just as Jews were forced to wear the yellow star on their clothing for identification.”

Last year after a gruesome killing of a French teacher near Paris, French President Macron defended the right of French magazine Charlie Hebdo to publish caricatures of the prophet. 

Protests erupted in many Muslims countries including Pakistan. Thousands of people rallied against France’s position on publishing cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. 

Activists from the far-right TLP party took to the streets, calling for the Pakistani government to sever diplomatic and trade ties with France. 

In October, the Pakistan National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution condemning the publication of blasphemous caricatures in France and the “resurgence of Islamophobic acts” in some countries after a noisy session that witnessed the government and opposition delivering fiery speeches against each other.

Macron’s remarks did not go well with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan who slammed the French President, saying that he has “chosen to deliberately provoke Muslims”.

Taking to Twitter, Khan had said, “Hallmark of a leader is he unites human beings, as Mandela did, rather than dividing them. This is a time when Pres Macron could have put healing touch and denied space to extremists rather than creating further polarisation and marginalisation that inevitably leads to radicalisation.”

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