The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) activists and supporters are raging against the incumbent government’s meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, along with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto and other officials, is currently in New York for the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and French President Emmanuel Macron held a bilateral meeting on the sidelines where it was announced through a joint statement that France will work towards reviving Pakistan’s economy in the aftermath of the recent climate change-induced devastating floods.
It was also decided that France will host an international conference before the end of the year, aiming at contributing to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of flood-affected people and areas of Pakistan.
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Pertinent to mention that the meeting was the first encounter by the country’s prime minister with the leader of a key European country in seven years.
Nevertheless, France’s agreement to help Pakistan was not taken kindly by TLP activists who have been running social media campaigns against the meeting.
TLP’s grievances with France
TLP has been extremely against France. Since France is a secular state, it claims that it is neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor the absence of it. However, such secularism in France has led to divisions within the French society under the umbrella of “freedom of speech”.
To clarify, the French publication Charlie Hebdo is notorious for publishing caricatures of religious figures, which hurt the sentiments of Muslims. In 2020, blasphemous caricatures were published in France which led to intense backlash from the Muslims, especially in Pakistan.
Pertinent to mention that publications of the caricatures have led to extreme incidents of violence, for instance, the 2015 Charlie Hebdo Paris attack and the beheading of a French teacher in 2020 for displaying blasphemous cartoons.
However, French President Emmanuel Macron has vigorously defended the controversial cartoons, saying they were protected under the right to free speech.
As a result, TLP is against France and in 2021 had launched a series of protests and strikes in Pakistan for 10 days which shook the then-PTI government as it demanded the expulsion of the French Ambassador and boycott of French products due to the blasphemous caricature that was published there and the events surrounding the murder of the French school teacher.
Due to the incidents of violence during the protests, TLP was banned for a short period of time. It remains anti-France and is currently charged against the incumbent government for meeting with the French President.
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