On Monday, November 16, Pakistan was shaken by new Islamist demonstrations against France, causing huge traffic jams. A thousand protesters gathered in front of the checkpoint that prevented them from entering Islamabad, the capital of the country. They wanted to continue the parades, already started on Sunday, to protest against the declaration ofEmmanuel macron.
The day before, Sunday, November 15, a rally in Rawalpindi, a city adjacent to the capital, had brought together almost 5,000 people. The authorities also blocked access to Islamabad. In addition, they have interrupted mobile phone services for more than 24 hours, to prevent the organizers from communicating.
The protesters were called to shout their anger by Khadim Hussain Rizvi, head of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan Radical Islamic Party (TLP). The latter had triggered violent demonstrations in November 2018 against the acquittal of Christian Asia Bibi, accused of blasphemy against Islam and sentenced to death in November 2010.
Macron’s speech at the origin of tensions
Emmanuel Macron recalled his attachment to the freedom to caricature during the tribute to Samuel Paty, a teacher killed on October 16 during an Islamist attack, after showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in class. “We will continue, professor. We will defend the freedom that he taught so well and we will promote secularism, we will not renounce cartoons, drawings, even if others withdraw,” declared the Head of State.
The country has known since various demonstrations against France and demonstrations were also held in other predominantly Muslim countries such as Bangladesh. As a reminder, any depiction of the Prophet Muhammad is forbidden in the strict interpretation of Islam.
On the Pakistani government side, Prime Minister Imran Khan indicted Emmanuel Macron in late October“attack Islam”. The French ambassador to Pakistan was summoned to denounce the “systematic Islamophobic campaign of the French president for freedom of expression.”