PM hails Putin for firm stand against Islamophobia


–Says Putin 1st Western leader to show empathy towards Muslim sentiments
–Discusses bilateral cooperation in phone talks with Russian President

By Uzma Zafar
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Monday appreciated President Vladimir Putin for his statement that disrespecting the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) did not count as an expression of artistic freedom but a “violation of religious freedom.”
The prime minister held a telephonic conversation with President of Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.
The prime minister said that he had been regularly highlighted the appalling rise in Islamophobia and associated hatred in his addresses to the UN General Assembly, pointing towards its serious ramifications.
Both leaders agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation in different areas, increase high-level exchanges, and remain in close contact on matters relating to Afghanistan.
Prime minister Khan underscored that a peaceful and stable Afghanistan was pivotal for regional stability. Afghanistan was facing dire humanitarian and economic challenges and support of the international community to the people of Afghanistan at this critical juncture remained vitally important, he stressed.
He also underscored the importance of release of Afghanistan’s financial assets for addressing the dire needs of the Afghan people.
“The two leaders fondly recalled their conversations during last year and exchanged views on bilateral cooperation as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest,” a press release said.
The prime minister underscored that Pakistan’s bilateral relationship with Russia was on an upward trajectory, with an increased focus on trade and economic ties and energy cooperation.
He reiterated the government’s resolve for early realization of the Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline Project.
The prime minister said that he looked forward to President Putin’s visit to Pakistan as well as his own visit to Russia at an appropriate time.
Separately, the prime minister, in a series of tweets, said that he lauded the Russian President for his emphatic statement regarding freedom of speech which could not be used as pretext to disrespect the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
“Just spoke to President Putin primarily to express my appreciation for his emphatic statement that freedom of speech could not be a pretext to abuse our Prophet PBUH. He is the first Western leader to show empathy & sensitivity to Muslim sentiment for their beloved Prophet PBUH,” he posted on his twitter handle.