Pakistan-France Foreign Relations and Protests

Pakistan-France relations refer to bilateral, cultural and international relations between Pakistan and France. The relationship is based on military, defense, cultural, educational cooperation and economic obligations. Trade between the two countries usually increases over time. However, relations are currently strained with Pakistan taking part in the French Product Misuse due to Charlie Hebdo’s cartoon scenes.


Foreign relations between Pakistan and France were first established on July 31, 1951 when both countries agreed to open embassies in each country. France was one of the first non-Muslim countries to host Pakistan, Iran was the first opened its embassy almost two months after Pakistan’s independence. In August 1960, a farewell trade agreement was signed; followed by an import agreement that ended in October 1966. During the Cold War, France regarded Pakistan as a “state of attention”, and was a major exporter of Pakistani armed forces.

After the Cold War, France’s foreign policy became known for decades for its unique Gaullist taste, which was not radically changed under longtime Socialist President François Mitterrand (1981-1995). French presidents have visited India more often than Pakistan, and Paris has never met Islamabad’s expectations regarding UN resolutions on Kashmir. The relationship also faced many setbacks in 1998-99 when Paris saw the Kargil episode as a dangerous move for Pakistan, given the new nuclear state situation. However, France has been promoting dialogue between India and Pakistan, without providing an opportunity to mediate on a complex issue. There was a lack of patience at the decision-making rallies in Paris when the Line of Control skipped over Kargil with a well-prepared task.

Quarrel against France

The 2020-2021 Pakistani protests were a series of protests and strikes in Pakistan between October 19, 2020 and January 23, 2021. Major protests began to erupt after a series of national protests against the regime of Imran Khan and his cabinet. Opposition protests and pro-democracy protests were Adamant’s overthrow of the government, opposing the dictatorship and demanding justice for the 2017 genocide and growing fear. Police brutality and inequality have also been a political spark in Islamabad and Rawalpindi recently. Karachi, Quetta and Azad Kashmir have faced major protests despite a spate of cases and diseases from Coronavirus. Protesters use peaceful protests, to quit is not violence, disruption okungenagazi growth contradicts the street to the police, using water cannon to spread the protests. Protesters were also marching across the country, noting that Pakistan’s national elections were being held in 2018 and that members of the opposition were calling for greater protests and widespread corruption. Thousands attended conventions throughout the country. Long acts of protests across the country grew exponentially as public disobedience and anti-Islamic protests contradicted President Emmanuel Macron’s discussion on Islam. Regular strikes, jobs and rallies continued until 2021. After a massacre that killed 11 miners in Baluchistan, the Miners, a former Hazar, protested in large numbers, despite a police crackdown on them. Four days after the protests, protesters demanded the release of Baluchistan. Protesters marched slogans against Shiites discrimination and the takeover of Islamic rights; they refused to bury them. Imran Khan offered a visit other than when the protests buried them but they eventually established their own burial. The three-day strike in Azad Kashmir saw no police intervention and demanded an end to the Indian war and a ban on Chinese products.

France pressurized citizens to leave Pakistan

France has urged all its citizens in Pakistan to leave the country temporarily amid violent protests against France across the country.

The country’s ambassador to Pakistan has warned of “serious threats to French interests in Pakistan”, saying protests are on the rise across the country. Two police officers were killed this week in fresh clashes with protesters. The protests erupted months after France defended the right to show cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.


In October last year, French President Emmanuel Macron strongly defended freedom of speech after the beheading of a teacher who showed such cartoons during a class discussion. This sparked outrage in parts of the Muslim world, including Pakistan, where telephone calls were being smuggled into France. The paintings of the Prophet Muhammad are widely regarded as fraudulent in Islam, and Muslims regard them as highly offensive.

The protests escalated this week after the Pakistani government arrested Saad Hussain Rizvi, the leader of the extremist political party Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), who was seeking the removal of the French ambassador. Mr Rizvi’s arrest, along with a move by Pakistani authorities to block the TLP, has brought thousands of party supporters into the streets of Pakistan to protest. Police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons into the crowd.

  • Anti-French rallies are being held around the world as tensions rise
  • Charlie Hebdo also publishes Mohammad cartoons
  • France urges Arab countries to ban strikes
  • Gunman shoots a defamatory suspect to death in court

The TLP had previously mobilized large crowds to protest against the insults. Under Pakistani law those found guilty of insulting the Prophet Muhammad could face the death penalty.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Pakistani Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said the nation “would like to protect the Prophet’s honor” but the TLP’s demands “could have made Pakistan a world power”.

Circumstances in Pakistan

Strong feelings against France have been raging in Pakistan for months since French President Emmanuel Macron in October last year defended the publication of images of Prophet Muhammad and vowed to fight “Islamist separatism”.

Earlier this week, TLP supporters took to the streets to launch a violent protest aimed at forcing the Imran Khan-led government to oust the French ambassador and block French products from the country.

However, Khan’s government retaliated by arresting TLP leader Saad Rizvi and on Wednesday announced that his party would be banned. According to the Associated Press, Rizvi’s arrest continued to intensify protests and his supporters disrupted traffic by setting up seats on highways and later closing roads in major cities including Karachi and Rawalpindi.

Protesters again staged a protest in the capital Islamabad and closed highways for days. This led to police launching a nationwide campaign that resulted in wars that killed five people, including two police officers. More than 300 people were reported injured. The Pakistani government insists that Rizvi’s demand could not be met as any action by the French ambassador or French products could “harm the interests of Pakistan”.

What is the reason of protest?

This is not the first time TLP has protested in Pakistan. In November last year, the group led a series of violent protests throughout Pakistan in which the government collapsed. The protest was led by Saad’s father, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, a Muslim cleric who passed away on November 20.

According to Dawn, the TLP at the time ended its protest after an agreement was reached with the government which promised to resolve the matter within three months. By the time the deadline approached in February 2021, the government had “expressed its inability to enter into an agreement”. The TLP has agreed to delay its protest by two and a half months and issued a new April 20 deadline.

Islamists quarrel with French cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad

Thousands of Pakistani Muslims clashed with police for a second day on Tuesday in protest of the arrest of their leader ahead of rallies criticizing French cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad, officials said. At least one activist and one police officer have been killed overnight after Muslims blocked highways, railways and highways, disrupting business in almost every major city.


Police barracks tear gas to disperse the protesters, a government official said uNaveed Zaman told Reuters, adding that he declined to go until the release of their leader, Saad said Rizvi, who was arrested on Monday. Rizvi is the head of a stubborn group, Tehrik-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), which emerged making the accusation of blasphemy against Muslims a rallying cry.

Protesters beat one, died on Tuesday, injuring at least 40, said police spokesman east neLahore told Reuters. One of the protesters died in the southwestern region, a police official said on request. The video showed some protesters beating and dragging police and pedestrians, which was criticized by government adviser Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi. He told Reuters that the law would take its course towards those affected.

The group closed one of the main roads to the capital late last year and closed its protest only after the government signed an agreement with them, agreeing to a strike on French products.

By that time, protests had erupted in several Muslim countries over France’s response to a deadly attack on a teacher who showed cartoons mocking Prophet Mohammad to students during public reading.

Pakistan’s parliament has criticized the re-printing of cartoons in France, urging the government to withdraw its ambassador. To Muslims, the manifestation of the Prophet is blasphemous.

An agreement with the government was reviewed earlier this year to extend the deadline for Parliament’s decision to expel the French ambassador until April 20 when the party plans to hold national rallies.

Islamist TLP became a major political force

Violent protests against France have crippled Pakistan in the past few days. The organizer of the protests is the Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan group, which is now a powerhouse in Pakistani politics.

Pakistani authorities have decided to block the stubborn Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan (TLP) group. The group is opposed to the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in France, and the French response confirming the right to “blasphemy” after school teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded near Paris last October after showing an Islamic prophet cartoon in his class.

The TLP demanded that the government expel the French ambassador and allow him to boycott French products. TLP activists are also demanding the release of Saad Rizvi, a 26-year-old party leader.

Violent TLP protests have caused havoc in a predominantly Muslim country, where Islamist supporters and police clash in major cities. At least two policemen were killed and more than 100 were injured in the clashes. The government of Prime Minister Imran Khan has been widely criticized for mismanaging protests and for not taking immediate action against violent protesters.

On Thursday, the French ambassador to Pakistan advised all French people and companies to temporarily leave the country, following protests against France.


“Because of the major threats affecting French interests in Pakistan, French citizens and French companies are being advised to leave the country temporarily,” the ambassador said in an email to its citizens.

Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, believes the TLP is playing a political role because of Muhammad’s cartoons. “France is a major financial backer in Pakistan and the need to expel its ambassador for alleged defamation is absurd,” said Haqqani, director of South and Central Asia at the Washington-based Hudson Institute.

“If Pakistan begins to deport the ambassadors of all countries where someone does what these stubborn people see as an insult to Islamabad it will have relations with very few countries,” he said.

Pak orders: Temporarily “Social media blocking” after protest

On Friday, the Pakistani government ordered the closure of many telecommunications and messaging services, following days of violent protests against France. In an announcement to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, the Ministry of Interior has called for a “complete ban” on Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, YouTube and Telegram until 3pm (1100 GMT).

It did not give us a reason for the ban, but comes a day after French citizens and companies in Pakistan advised their ambassador to temporarily leave after meetings led by a militant group that paralyzed large parts of the country and left two policemen dead. Political parties often use social media to gather supporters. Thousands of Tehreek-e-Labbaik supporters in Pakistan have taken to the streets after their leader was arrested on Tuesday following complaints about the French embassy’s expulsion.

Emotions against France have been on the rise for months in Pakistan since President Emmanuel Macron backed support for the magazine’s right to republish cartoons describing the Prophet Muhammad – considered by many Muslims to be blasphemous.

The government of Prime Minister Imran Khan has struggled to bring Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan to the fore in recent years, but this week announced that the group would be banned altogether, calling it a terrorist outfit. Additional security personnel have been sent to the French embassy – inside a closed palace for civilian officials – and other containers mounted on the outer wall.


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