ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Monday said the collective voice of the Muslim world and threat of trade boycott could put an end to blasphemy in the West in the name of freedom of expression adding that protest demonstrations would only damage Pakistan’s booming economy.
“Will expulsion of French ambassador and cutting ties with them stop blasphemy? Is there any guarantee that no one will do it again? I guarantee, if Pakistan does it (expels French envoy). I know the West. If Pakistan does it, some other European country will do it again in the name of freedom of expression,” he said in his televised address to the nation.
Referring to the protest demonstrations by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, Imran said the riots had killed four policemen and injured over 800, while 40 police vans were gutted besides damage to private properties.
He said the purpose of both the government and TLP was to get rid of blasphemy, but the latter’s approach was counter-productive. “If we expel the French ambassador and cut ties with them, it means we will cut ties with the whole of the European Union. This means half of our textile exports will come down. This will create unemployment and rupee will get under pressure thus creating inflation and poverty. We will be on the losing end, not France,” he remarked.
He said contrary to the TLP’s strategy of getting their demands fulfilled through the agitation, the heads of all Muslim states should tell the European Union and western states as to why blasphemy hurt the Muslims so deep.
“The West does not understand. They do not even love the prophets the way we love our Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him). Even, they are not attached to religion like us. We will have to make them understand it,” he said. He said currently Pakistan’s economy was booming with its large scale industry getting better, creating jobs and wealth and rupee getting strong.
Last week, a party tried to show as they loved the Holy Prophet (PBUH) more than us,” he said.
Imran said he also desired that none should dare blaspheme against the Holy Prophet (PBUH) but the difference was about the method.
The prime minister told the countrymen that the government had been negotiating with TLP for the last two and a half months trying to make them understand that their strategy would cause suffering to Pakistan.
He said the government had also decided to present their demands in the National Assembly but they announced a sit-in in Islamabad linking it with the expulsion of French envoy, which disrupted talks leading to arrests.
He asked whether any Muslim head of state had spoken about the blasphemous book of Salman Rushdie.
“The sitting government at that time or any political leader in Pakistan did not talk about the book,” he added.
He said Pakistan was the only state created in the name of Islam and he had found all of its citizens having deep reverence for the Holy Prophet (PBUH) even if they were not firm practicing Muslims.
“The Muslims not only in Pakistan, but also across the whole Muslim world are pained by blasphemy in any part of the world,” he said.
Imran said after the publication of Salman Rushdie’s book, the incidents of blasphemy had been taking place in western countries after every few years triggering protests in the Muslim world.
“Did this approach bring any difference? TLP is also doing the same (now),” he added.
Imran said after the violent incidents, the enemies of Pakistan intervened in the matter.
The government analysed 0.4 million tweets and 70 percent of them were made from fake accounts, he added.
A propaganda was unleashed by India as was made evident by EU DisinfoLab, which revealed that 600 Indian websites were involved in fake propaganda particularly against Pakistan.
The prime minister said 380 groups from India were running fake news in the WhatsApp groups about the latest situation in Pakistan.
He said it was unfortunate that Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) and PMLN got involved in this issue to destabilize the government and damage the country.
The premier said he knew the West, as he had spent his life there, adding that in the 14th OIC summit in June 2019, he had talked about Islamophobia and incidents of blasphemy.
The prime minister said he had also raised the issue at the United Nations General Assembly twice and told the world leaders as to how sentiments of more than one billion Muslims were hurt because of blasphemy.
The government also raised the issue of Islamophobia with the UN Human Rights Commission and other human rights bodies, he noted.
Imran said he had written a letter to the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg telling him that his social media platform should not be used for Islamophobia.
“I also wrote a letter to all heads of Islamic states and urged them to take a joint action on the issue.”
Imran said the world needed to be made aware that the sentiments of Muslims were hurt when the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was blasphemed in the name of freedom.
Imran said the Jews were less in number but they had made it clear to the western world that no negative comments should be made against the holocaust.
The western media could not talk against holocaust and in four European countries people could be jailed for talking against it, he explained.
“We have to work collectively and make the world realise the sentiments of the Muslims.”
He said whenever Pakistanis would protest, the West would think it was against the freedom of expression and then people there knowingly would do something to hurt the feelings of Muslims.
“The way Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) is acting will only damage Pakistan,” he said, adding that he would take responsibility on the issue and the day would not be far off when the West would realize the sentiments of Muslims.
“I will lead the campaign and will not disappoint the nation and the Muslims and the West will one day realize what it is doing is wrong.”
He asked the Ulema to support the government, as violence was damaging the country.
“The enemy benefitted from the chaos in the country and the nation suffered,” he continued.
He said TLP was forcing people to come out of their homes for protest.
“This is beyond comprehension and intellect that a crime is committed somewhere and we unleash a suicide attack on ourselves,” he continued.
Imran said, “We came out of a difficult time of two years, and now our economy is rising. Our direction is right so it is not the right time to cause damage to our country.”
Pakistan was facing the third wave of coronavirus and the nation should follow the guidelines to tackle the disease, he concluded.
Meanwhile, addressing the ground-breaking ceremony of Margallah Highway here, Imran regretted that many national political and religious parties had ‘misused’ Islam to the detriment of their country, which made no difference to the countries where blasphemy was committed.
“But we hurt our own people and our own country this way,” he emphasised.
“All our people love the Holy Prophet (PBUH) so deeply and Pakistan is the country, which came into being in the name of Islam.”
The prime minister also noted that he had not seen so much devotion for the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in any other country than in Pakistan but it was sad that many times this love was misused. “Is the government not concerned when blasphemy is committed? Don’t we feel the pain?” he asked.
He then asked who would decide about this pain and wondered had anyone torn apart somebody’s heart to measure who loved the Holy Prophet (PBUH) more.
“So, they use it in a wrong way. Then we are not rendering any service to our religion. And, we are also not damaging or hurting the country where such crime takes place, rather we damage ourselves,” he maintained.
He assured the nation that he would carry a comprehensive campaign and then a time would come when there would be so much pressure that none would dare commit blasphemy.
“I will launch this campaign and I have already started taking measures,” he remarked.
Imran emphasised that by holding protests and damaging properties would not make any difference to the West, where such acts (blasphemy) were committed.
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