Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Pakistan cuts mobile phone service in bid to stymie protest organisers

Hardline groups are still violently protesting Macron's 'Islamophobic' defence of French secular and free speech values.

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Pakistan authorities have suspended mobile phone services in Islamabad and surrounding areas since early Sunday to prevent far right rally organisers from coordinating anti-France protests.

However, hardline party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), known for its violent rallies, still managed to communicate enough to organise further demonstrations, causing authorities to seal off a main road into Islamabad a day after 5,000 people rallied in neighbouring Rawalpindi.

Pakistan has seen scattered protests in recent weeks after French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the beheading of a teacher by an Islamist extremist at a school near Paris.

Macron’s response triggered protests across the Islamic world, with tens of thousands in Pakistan, neighbouring Iran, Bangladesh and other Muslim countries flooding the streets and organising anti-French boycotts.

Prime Minister Imran Khan accused the French president of being anti-Muslim and urged Islamic countries to work together to counter what he called growing Islamophobia in Europe.

Blasphemy is a taboo subject in ultra-conservative Pakistan, where anyone deemed to have insulted Islam or Muslim figures can face the death penalty or simply mob lynching.

In 2018, the country was paralysed by violent TLP protests across Pakistan following the acquittal of Christian woman Asia Bibi, who had been accused of disrespecting the Prophet Mohammed.

Bibi and her family are now believed to be living in the West.

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