Pakistan will ban party behind anti-France protests: Minister

Pakistan will ban party behind anti-France protests: Minister

A senior minister said on Wednesday that anti-French protests would ban an extremist Pakistani political party responsible for paralyzing various parts of the country.

Thousands of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) supporters have blocked major intersections across Pakistani cities this week, and two police officers have been killed in clashes with angry mobs.

"We have decided to ban the TLP and the draft is going to the cabinet for approval," Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told a news conference.

He said the party's demands that Pakistan be made a "radical nation" like the outside world were in jeopardy.

The TLP is notorious for staging street protests all day on blasphemy issues, which is a major obstacle for the country.

But successive governments have a long history of avoiding confrontation with hardline Islamic parties, fearing that any action against religious parties could lead to widespread violence in the deeply conservative Islamic Republic.

Dozens of people have been banned in the United States since the 9/11 attacks, however, when Pakistan was under effective military rule and cracked down on radicals.

Banned parties cannot contest elections, raise funds or maintain a physical office.

The latest protests erupted after the detention of TLP leader Saad Rizvi, who has since been charged under anti-terrorism laws.

The French ambassador was detained for hours after he demanded a march on the capital to demand his deportation.

The group has called on the French government to back Charlie Hebdo magazine for republishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad(PBUH).

Minister Rashid Ahmed said, "We are in favor of the protection of the honor of the Prophet, but the demand he is seeking can be presented to Pakistan as a radical nation all over the world."

Rizvi is the son of Khadim Hussain Rizvi, a firebrand cleric and former head of the TLP, who died in November after protesting against France.

During the protests, TLP supporters brought the capital to a standstill for three days, with heavy fighting on the streets and authorities cutting off mobile phone coverage in and around Islamabad.

The protests ended after a meeting between the government and party leaders, who claimed that Islamabad had agreed to deport the French ambassador.

The government has never acknowledged the details of any agreement.

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