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Islamabad blocked off amid new anti-France demos

Supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a religious party, block the Islamabad-Rawalpindi highway during an anti-France demonstration in Islamabad, November 16, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Pakistani authorities have sealed off a major road into the capital Islamabad for a second day in the wake of a major protest by hundreds of people against the French government and its anti-Islam stance.

Commuters faced lengthy delays on alternative routes into the capital city on Monday.

On Sunday, about 5,000 protesters similarly demonstrated in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

Mobile phone services in Islamabad and the surrounding areas have been suspended since early Sunday.

In October, an 18-year-old assailant beheaded a history teacher outside his school in a Paris suburb. The teacher had raised controversy and provoked anger over showing anti-Islam cartoons. Police shot the attacker dead later.

French President Emmanuelle Macron then commented on the tragic incident.

He spoke about his fight against “Islamist separatism,” which, according to him, threatens to take control in some Muslim communities around France.

Macron also said the teacher was decapitated because “Islamists” wanted “our future.”

Since then, Muslims in various parts of the world have been denouncing Macron’s statements, even calling for a boycott of French products.

In parallel with the popular display of outrage, some governments have summoned French envoys. 

The French ambassador in Islamabad was also summoned over Macron’s ‘irresponsible remarks.’

Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan has already lambasted the French president.

Khan recently wrote a letter to the leaders of Muslim countries, calling for collective action against growing Islamophobia in France.

Pakistan bans demonstrations amid rise in COVID-19 infections

Separately on Monday, the Pakistani government prohibited public political assemblies after recording its highest daily coronavirus infections since July. 

The prime minister said on national television, “We have decided to ban public gatherings in the country, including ours planned over the weekend, as large crowds help in the spread of the virus.”

Seemin Jamali, executive director of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center in Karachi, said, “No one followed safety precautions and we are seeing the results.”

“It is high time people realized, or we will continue to suffer.”

The country has registered a total 359,032 coronavirus cases and 7,160 deaths.

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