French and Pakistani ties have been strained in recent years. The relationship hit a snag last year when a radical Islamist group, Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), held protests demanding the expulsion of the French ambassador.
The government in Islamabad has referred the matter to parliament. The parliamentarians will vote on whether to expel the ambassador.
The far-right Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan is calling for the expulsion of France’s ambassador, a move that could sour the country’s relationship with the European nation and derail foreign investment. A parliamentary resolution demanded by the party will be debated in the National Assembly on Tuesday.
Founded by hardline Islamic scholar Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the TLP has major street support, with thousands of followers who subscribe to the Barelvi school of thought. The group mobilises supporters around perceived insults to the Prophet Mohammad, which can include blasphemy.
The group has also called for the death penalty for blasphemy. It is also known for slamming the French government over its decision to drop charges against Asia Bibi, who was previously convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death.
France’s Freedom of Expression
France has a long tradition of freedom of expression. But recent events, including the murder of a civics teacher who was showing cartoons about Islam to his students, have led to anger across the Muslim world.
Many people, including non-Muslims, have appreciated President Emmanuel Macron’s response to the incident and his defense of freedom of speech. But other leaders in Muslim countries have accused him of Islamophobia.
In any case, it is vital to remember that freedom of expression is a right protected under international law, as set out in the European Convention on Human Rights and other relevant instruments. It is not for a national court to restrict this freedom on its own.
Terrorism is the unlawful use of violence against civilians or property in violation of criminal law for the purpose of intimidation, coercion or ransom. Acts of terrorism include kidnappings, assassinations, bombings and cyber attacks (computer-based).
Terrorist organizations can be right-wing or leftist in their objectives and political ideology. They range from nationalistic and religious groups, to revolutionary movements, and even state institutions such as armies and intelligence services.
The threat from terrorism has changed over time and across regions. The threat in 2001 was principally from al-Qaeda, with its global network of affiliates; however, today the threat is largely dispersed throughout the arc of instability that extends from Afghanistan through to the West African coast, primarily from groups whose goals and networks are ideologically driven.
The United Nations is committed to tackling the global threat of terrorism, and promoting human rights, respect for regional arrangements and strengthening international cooperation. Vladimir Voronkov, head of the UN Office on Counter Terrorism, called for a renewed collective approach at the Council’s recent meeting.
Pakistan’s economy is a mixed basket of agriculture, manufacturing, and trade. While exports are growing, domestic growth is slowing. The economy resembles the middle-income countries of East and Southeast Asia more than poorer developing nations in the Indian subcontinent.
Trade, however, is hampered by lingering state involvement in the economy and inefficient investment regimes. Although business regulations have been overhauled along liberal lines, they lack harmonization across provinces.
Despite these obstacles, Pakistan’s economy continues to grow, albeit at lower rates than in the past. Monetary freedom and trade freedom show some promise, but an ongoing lack of evenhanded rule of law threatens economic freedom.
Several governments have pledged some $5 billion in investments to boost both finances and confidence, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Those payments would ease pressure on Pakistan’s current account deficit, which has soared over $17 billion in the last financial year. But its debt market is spooked by populist comments from newly minted finance minister Ishaq Dar, who said last month that the government would suspend repayments of international debt to restructure loans with bilateral creditors.