Pakistan lifts ban on radical anti-France party

Pakistan’s government has lifted a ban on a radical party that staged massive anti-France protests, after striking a deal with the group which ended the latest rounds of deadly protests.

In a notification published late Sunday, the government said the move was in the “national interest”, coming after seven police officers were killed in clashes during a days-long rally that began last month. 

The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan has staged a series of disruptive protests over the past several years linked to the flash-point issue of blasphemy in Muslim-majority Pakistan. 

“The federal government is pleased to remove the name of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan as proscribed organisation,” the government said in a statement. 

It added the decision was made after assurances from the group — which has three members in the nation’s parliament — that it would abide by the law. 

Hundreds of detained TLP supporters were also released from detention earlier this month as part of the deal.

“This label has been a source of major concern for us as all our activists were being booked under anti-terrorism act. We were told last night about the decision,” TLP spokesman Sajjad Saifi told AFP by phone on Monday.

But TLP leader Saad Rizvi, who was arrested in April when the group was first banned, remains in detention. 

The party has waged an anti-France campaign after Paris-based satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo republished cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed — an act deemed blasphemous by many Muslims.

Protests in April led to the French embassy issuing a warning for all its citizens to leave the country.

The latest protests, which drew thousands to the streets of the eastern city of Lahore, were against the detention of Rizvi and also called for the expulsion of the French ambassador from the country. 

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