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13 Apr, 2021 11:54

Pakistani health officials accuse anti-French protesters of blocking critical Covid oxygen supplies

Pakistani health officials accuse anti-French protesters of blocking critical Covid oxygen supplies

Health officials in Pakistan have condemned anti-French protesters after thousands of people halted traffic on main roads, causing a health “crisis” by blocking the delivery of critical oxygen supplies to Covid patients.

Demonstrations broke out in Lahore, Pakistan on Monday after the nation’s police detained the Ameer of the right-wing Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan party (TLP), Saad Rizvi, as a “pre-emptive measure” to “maintain law and order.”

The political group has been calling on the Pakistani government to kick out the French ambassador, Dr. Marc Barety, over President Emmanuel Macron’s refusal to condemn satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published by the magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Health officials lambasted the actions of protesters who blocked roads for disrupting ambulances “carrying oxygen cylinders, which are extremely essential for Covid patients,” after a number of hospitals reported shortages on Monday night. Yasmin Rashid, who is serving as the provincial minister of health for Punjab, described the situation in the region as a crisis caused by the actions of TLP activists.

Prior to his arrest, Rizvi had called on supporters to march through Lahore on April 20 to pressure the country to expel the French ambassador, a move the TLP claims the Pakistani government agreed to do last year. Pakistan denies any agreement was made on the removal of France’s envoy.

Images of the Prophet Mohammed are considered blasphemous by Muslims, and there has been international condemnation by Islamic figures and majority-Muslim nations, particularly Turkey, over the French government’s defense of the right to show the controversial cartoons in the country.

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Pakistan has been struggling to contain a third wave of coronavirus that has hit the country, as the nation’s health service struggles under the pressure of the pandemic and from a slow vaccine rollout. Since the start of the pandemic, Pakistan has reported 721,018 cases of the virus and 15,443 deaths from Covid. However, despite being a nation of more than 216 million people, the government has only managed to administer 936,683 doses of the vaccine.

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