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Pakistan Lawmakers To Vote To Expel French Ambassador After Protests

Supporters of Tehrik-e Labaik Pakistan (TLP) block a street in protest after their leader was detained following his calls for the expulsion of the French ambassador, in Lahore on April 18.

Pakistan's interior minister says the government will seek a vote in parliament to expel the French ambassador after violent anti-France protests by Islamists.

"After long negotiations with TLP, this has been agreed that we will table a resolution in parliament today to expel French ambassador," said Sheikh Rashid Ahmad in a recorded video statement on April 20.

Following Ahmad's announcement, the TLP released an audio statement of its spokesman Shafiq Amini saying: "It is requested to end protests wherever they are happening across the country."

However, there was no immediate indication that crowds were dispersing at the largest protest site, in the northwestern city of Lahore, where thousands of followers were gathered outside the group's headquarters.

Pakistani Authorities Announce Deal With Tehrik-e Labaik Religious Party Amid Protests
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The expulsion is one of the main demands of the radical Islamist Tehrik-e Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party that has been protesting for months over cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad. The group had given the government an April 20 deadline to expel the ambassador.

TLP officials were not immediately available to confirm the remarks.

The TLP has waged an anti-France campaign since President Emmanuel Macron last year defended the right of a satirical magazine to republish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad -- an act deemed blasphemous by many Muslims.

On April 18, at least three people were killed in clashes between police and TLP supporters.

France’s embassy in Islamabad has urged French nationals to leave Pakistan.

The government on April 14 banned the TLP -- effectively labeling them a terrorist organization -- and police arrested thousands of protesters during clashes, but authorities said no action would be taken against them.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on April 19 pleaded with the TLP to end its violent campaign, saying the unrest was harming the nation.

"It doesn't make any difference to France," he said in a recorded address shown on television.

"If we keep protesting our whole lives we would only be damaging our own country and it will not impact (the West)."

In October, Macron defended the right to publish cartoons, including those deemed offensive by some Muslims, triggering anti-France protests in several Muslim countries, including Pakistan.

Macron's comments came after a French schoolteacher was killed by an Islamist for showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, originally published in the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, during a lesson on freedom of expression in September 2020.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters