Islamabad: Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa attended a security exhibition this month in Paris while deliberately keeping a low profile to avoid any possible public backlash, owing to the diplomatic rift between the two countries.

For this particular trip, there was no mention in the Pakistani media and no press release was issued by the military media wing. According to South Asian Press, Bajwa kept a very low profile and did not even attend official dinners by the French organizers of the exhibition.

Moreover, Pakistan's mission, which lacks an ambassador due to poor Pak-French relations, was apparently not even involved in the visit.

"General Bajwa probably kept a low profile in France so as not to upset the Islamist extremist groups back home, which consider France a blasphemous country," South Asain Press reported citing a reporter working in Paris for Pakistani media.

At the forefront of such anti-French Islamist extremist groups that General Bajwa does not want to upset is TLP.

TTP, known to have close links to the Pakistani military, is now a political party, in recent years has gained popularity in Pakistan after failed efforts by Pakistan's civilian leadership to ban the party on terror charges.

TLP emerged as an Islamist pressure group opposing the 2016 hanging of Mumtaz Qadri for murdering former Punjab governor Salman Taseer who had criticized Pakistan's blasphemy laws. Blasphemy is a legal offence in the country.

Following Qadri's execution, the TLP and affiliated groups organized nationwide protests, often resorting to destruction of property and street intimidation, an approach it has persisted with.

In November 2017, the TLP held the capital hostage for weeks after amendments in the Electoral Reforms Bill, which had overlooked the mandatory anti-Ahmadi clause requiring the members of the constitutionally excommunicated community to declare themselves non-Muslims to participate in any election process.

A month after the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government came to power in September 2018, the TLP launched protests against an anti-Islam cartoon competition organized by far-right Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders in the Netherlands.

In October 2018, the TLP protested against the Supreme Court releasing Christian woman Asia Bibi establishing that she was falsely accused of blasphemy against Islam.

Again, the TLP's pushback came in September 2020 after "Charlie Hebdo" decided to republish caricatures of Prophet Muhammad, coinciding with the trial of abettors of the 2015 jihadist attack on the publication.

That same year, French President Emmanuel Macron came to the defence of free speech on religion after a schoolteacher, Samuel Paty, was decapitated by a radical Islamist for showing the French satirical publication's cartoons in class also irked the group.

Given such history between the two countries, the South Asian Press report said Pakistan Army Chief may have kept a low profile during the Paris visit to avoid any attention to Pakistani Islamist groups, especially at a time when he is already facing backlash for the ouster of Imran Khan's government.