Unofficial deadline for the expulsion of France’s ambassador to Pakistan to expire

The deadline proclaimed by the Pakistani Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) for the government to expel France’s ambassador to Pakistan

Pakistan 1

Photo: Fareed Khan/AP

The deadline proclaimed by the Pakistani Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) for the government to expel France’s ambassador to Pakistan over the publication of  cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, arrives today.

A wave of violent protests rocked the majority-Muslim nation last week as demonstrators took to the streets demanding Pakistan sever ties with France over President Emmanuel Macron’s policies defending perceived religious mockery. The demonstrations were spurred by last Monday’s arrest of Islamist leader Saad Rizvi and the government’s dissolution of TLP’s far-right political party.

In the short-term, expect Pakistan’s government to continue to crackdown on protesters through tactics such as last Friday’s social media blackout. Although the government had initially agreed to consider the ambassador’s expulsion by the April 20 deadline, Islamabad’s recent actions indicate a lack of interest in adhering to TLP’s demands. Nevertheless, unrest is likely to continue as Islamist groups manifest popular outrage brought about by the friction between rigid French secularism and conservative Islamic thought. In the medium-term, the government’s efforts to attract foreign direct investment from Europe are likely to take a hit. In the long-term, the governing Tehreek-e-Insaf party risks losing power to conservative Islamist parties underscored by animosity against the government.

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