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France urges citizens to leave Pakistan after threats

France urges citizens to leave Pakistan after threats
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The French Embassy in Pakistan on Thursday advised all French citizens and companies to temporarily leave Pakistan after large anti-French protests took place across the country.

"Due to the serious threats to French interests in Pakistan, French nationals and French companies are advised to temporarily leave the country," the embassy said, France24 reports. “The departures will be carried out by existing commercial airlines."

Protests led by the far-right Islamist political party Tehrik-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) have demanded that the Pakistani government expel the French ambassador and boycott French products due to the French magazine Charlie Hebdo republishing cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad last year.

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Most Muslims believe that depictions of prophets in Islam are blasphemous and should be prohibited as a way to prevent idol worship.

Two people were stabbed outside of Charlie Hebdo's former Paris office a few weeks after the September reprinting.

This advisory from the French Embassy comes one day after the Pakistani interior ministry said it would ban TLP for its protests, France24 notes. Pakistani Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid told reporters his decision was made because the government did not want "to be known as an extremist nation at international level.”

France24 notes that the TLP has a large following in Pakistan and enforcing a ban on the political party will likely be difficult.

Anti-French sentiment has grown in majority-Islam countries ever since French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronThousands protest in French cities in fight against climate change Biden to record video message for 'Vax Live' concert EU leaders criticize Biden push to waive COVID-19 vaccine patents: Not a 'magic bullet' MORE signaled support for Charlie Hebdo being able to republish the cartoons. "I can understand that people could be shocked by the caricatures but I will never accept that violence can be justified," he said in late October.

In October, a high school teacher in France was decapitated by an 18-year-old Chechen man for showing a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad in class. Nine people have been arrested so far in connection with that killing.