Anti-France demonstrators rallied on Thursday in Pakistan and the foreign minister lodged a diplomatic complaint as the backlash grew against a French magazine republishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
Satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, the target of a massacre by Islamist gunmen in 2015, reprinted the controversial caricatures this week to mark the start of the trial of the alleged accomplices in the attack.
Dozens of men gathered in the northern city of Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, yelling slogans that included “Stop barking, French dogs” and “Charlie Hebdo, stop”.
“The government of Pakistan should immediately end its diplomatic relations with France as a protest,” Sunni cleric Mohammad Zaman said at the rally.
The protest ended peacefully after the men stomped on a French flag, dowsed it in petrol and then set it ablaze.
In a video message, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said he strongly condemned Charlie Hebdo’s action and that he had lodged a protest with the French ambassador in Islamabad.
“The published caricatures have hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims,” he said.
“I hope that this despicable act will not be repeated and those responsible for it will be taken to a court of law.”
Far-right Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan said it was organising a protest after Friday prayers in the eastern city of Lahore. Other protests were expected in the cities of Rawalpindi and Karachi.
TLP has organised huge protests over alleged blasphemy in the past. It paralysed much of Pakistan in 2018 with violent protests against the acquittal of a Christian woman accused of blasphemy.
Images of the Prophet are proscribed in Islam. Insulting religion under Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws can carry the death penalty.
Twelve people, including some of France’s most celebrated cartoonists, were killed on January 7, 2015, when brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi went on a gun rampage at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris.