After massive protests across Pakistan, the lower house of the Parliament on Tuesday (April 20) tabled a resolution which called for the expulsion of the French ambassador from Pakistan over the issue of blasphemous cartoons being published in the European country.
The resolution was presented by the Amjad Ali Khan of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in the National Assembly. Technically, it was not an official document as it was moved by a member in his private capacity but it was accepted for discussion.
The resolution condemned the publication of blasphemous caricatures by French magazine Charlie Hebdo in September last year and expressed regret over the French’s president “encouragement of the elements hurting the sentiments of the hundreds of millions of Muslims in the name of freedom of expression”.
“The House condemns the publication of insulting sketches by the controversial French magazine Charlie Hebdo and Muslims around the world had also expressed outrage at the publication of the sketches,” the resolution added. It stated that a debate should be held in the House on the expulsion of the French ambassador from Pakistan over the issue of caricatures.
“This House also demands that the state should decide matters of international relations and no person, group or party can exert unnecessary illegal pressure,” according to the resolution.
It also said that all European countries in general and France in particular should be made aware of the seriousness of this issue of blasphemy. The resolution said that the issue should be raised collectively on international forums while discussing the issue with all Muslim countries.
The main Opposition Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) attended the session but the Pakistan People’s Party boycotted it.
Ahsan Iqbal of PML-N demanded that the resolutions should be presented by the prime minister or some minister to make it an official document and the government should bring a new resolution after discussion with the opposition. “We want to cooperate with the government on this sensitive issue but cannot support the resolution in the current form, he said.
Minister for Planning Asad Umar welcomed the offer for cooperation and said the government was ready to delay the voting in order to discuss the resolution with the opposition. Speaker Qaisar said that he would like to give time to the House for discussion to come up with the consensus document and adjourned the session until Friday.
Earlier, the government announced a resolution in the parliament for expulsion of French ambassador to satisfy the demand of recently banned radical Islamist party Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP)
“The TLP agreed to call off protests in return of the government presenting resolution in the parliament and ending cases against its members,” Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said in a video message that after marathon talks with the group.
Interestingly, the decision to accept the demand of TLP was taken a day Prime Minister Imran Khan in his address to the nation said that expulsion of the ambassador was not a solution to stop the incidences of blasphemy in the western world.
The expulsion of the French ambassador is one of the main four demands of the radical Islamist party, which was banned last week after its members staged violent anti-France protests across the country.
The decision to take the matter to the parliament was made after a government delegation, comprising the interior minister and Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri, held talks with the TLP leaders in Lahore late on Monday night.
The trouble started last week when the government arrested the TLP chief Saad Rizvi ahead of a planned protest by the party on April 20 to force the government to expel the French ambassador. The arrest sparked countrywide violet protests, prompting the government to ban the TLP under anti-terrorism laws of the country.
With inputs from PTI