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Pakistan-EU ties sour over rising anti-French sentiment

Javed Rana

Press TV, Islamabad


The lower house of Pakistan's Parliament is preparing to resume a debate on whether or not to expel French ambassador over repeated incidents of blasphemy in France against Islam’s Prophet Muhammad (PBHU).

However, days before the resumption of parliamentary debate here, the European Union Parliament has come up with what appears to be a counter-resolution to pressure Islamabad to prevent the expulsion of the French envoy from Pakistan.

The European Parliament has decided to review with Pakistan a trade agreement known as Generalized System of Preferential -Plus or GPS Plus over what it calls rising anti-French sentiment and mistreatment of minorities under blasphemy laws in Pakistan.

Under this trade deal, Islamabad gets an estimated $1.5 billion in additional annual trade benefits, which are far less than the economic losses Pakistan suffers almost every year because of mass unrest linked with Islamophobia in France.

The frequent incidents of blasphemy in France have led to mass unrest, which has left dozens of people dead and brought Pakistan to a grinding halt time and again. The repeated use of force against emotionally charged protesters have led to only pitch battles in the streets across Pakistan.

The mass unrest ended two weeks ago only after Pakistan's government once again pledged to expel the French envoy following a parliamentary approval. The European Union’s concerns go beyond the possible expulsion of the French ambassador.

Islamabad expressed disappointment with the European Union, pointing out that its “reflects a lack of understanding in the context of blasphemy and associated religious sensitivities in Pakistan” and elsewhere in the Muslim world.

The blasphemy law was first introduced by the British empire in 1860 in this part of the world to calm down widespread public anger and to prevent incidents of blasphemy against the Prophet.

None of the convicts of blasphemy in Pakistan has ever been executed after successive governments allegedly buckled under pressure from the West to set the convicted prisoners free and let them migrate to settle in Europe. This has led to lynching of as many as 75 suspects and prisoners amid reports of isolated cases of misuse of the blasphemy law in Pakistan since 1987.

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