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ISLAMABAD: The French embassy in Pakistan on Thursday advised all French nationals and companies to temporarily leave the country, after violent anti-France protests paralysed large parts of the country this week.

"Due to the serious threats to French interests in Pakistan, French nationals and French companies are advised to temporarily leave the country," the embassy said in an email to French citizens.

"The departures will be carried out by existing commercial airlines."

Anti-French sentiment has been simmering for months in Pakistan since the government of President Emmanuel Macron expressed support for a satirical magazine's right to republish blasphemous cartoons.

On Wednesday, the Pakistani government moved to ban Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP whose leader had called for the expulsion of the French ambassador.

Saad Rizvi, leader of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), was detained hours after making his demands, bringing thousands of his supporters to the streets in cities across Pakistan.

This week extra security personnel have been deployed to the French embassy, which is inside a guarded diplomatic enclave closed off to the public, and around four shipping containers placed on its outer wall.

Ludo Van Vooren, a French citizen living in Islamabad, told AFP he was assessing the advice.

"We are a little shocked and reflecting on what to do," he said. "Following the incidents of the last few months, we haven't been panicking but we are very vigilant. Now we are trying to work out if things have changed."

Last year around 445 French citizens and more than 30 French companies were registered in Pakistan, according to a French government website.

On Twitter, the hashtag "#FranceLeavePakistan" was trending with more than 55,000 tweets as of Thursday afternoon.-AFP

BR Staff Reporter adds: The Embassy of France in Islamabad has advised French citizens to “temporarily” leave Pakistan due to the situation in wake of violent protests across the country by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), which was formally outlawed, on Thursday, by the government.

The “precautionary” note issued to the French nationals by the embassy was confirmed to Business Recorder by Veronique Wagner, the political counsellor – domestic policy and press of the Embassy of France.

“We can confirm that we have sent a precautionary note to our citizens in Pakistan advising them to temporarily leave the country due to the situation. But the embassy keeps working with fewer staff,” Wagner said in response to a question.

Commenting on the French embassy advisory note to the French citizens, Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said: “We are aware of the advice which appears to be based on their own assessment of the situation.”

For its part, he added, the government of Pakistan is taking enhanced measures for the maintenance of law and order and preventing any damage to life and property.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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