-Says sending French Ambassador back will not end Islamophobia
-Claims govt on same page with TLP regarding the protection of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s honour
-Argues Muslim nations should work collectively to fight Islamophobia
-Reminds nation that Pakistan was built on the principles of Islam
-Announces to launch global campaign against blasphemy
By Ajmal Khan Yousafzai
Islamabad: Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the nation after the recent protests by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) which had turned Lahore into a battleground, pointing out that while the nation was founded on the principles of Islam, the parties would often misuse it to their own benefit.
“ln our country it is a great misfortune that many times our political parties and religious parties use Islam wrongly and use it such that they deal damage to their own country,” the premier said in his televised address. “Our country is the only one which was founded in the name of Islam, what was its slogan? ‘Pakistan ka matlab kia, La Ilaha Illallah‘,” he said. PM Imran stressed that the government is on the same page with the TLP regarding the protection of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s honour, but added that the expulsion of the ambassador of France is not the solution.
The premier claimed that the West and “made this” incident into a freedom of speech issue and that removing the French ambassador would do more harm than good as “some other European country will follow suit”.
PM Imran Khan maintained that sending Ambassador’s back would harm the economy of Pakistan but would not damage France or any such country. He added that the government has its own strategy to deal with Islamophobia. The PM reiterated that he had raised the issue on different international forums, including the United Nations, and also wrote to Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg regarding the matter.
He said that the reason for which the TLP had brought out its workers was the same love of the Prophet (PBUH) and purpose as his own government, but underscored that their methods were different. He pointed out how European nations had come together to strengthen laws regarding Holocaust denial, and stated that Muslim nations should also work collectively to eliminate Islamophobia. He added the incumbent government believes in approaching the heads of the different Muslim countries to come up with a collective strategy.
However, the prime minister added that violent actions did not benefit Islam in any way and no loss was dealt to the country in which the blasphemous act was committed. Instead, only Pakistan suffered a loss, he said. “Violent protests in Pakistan will make no difference to the country where the blasphemous act has occurred.”
“We all must unite and thank Allah for his mercy,” the PM said. Moreover, Prime Minister Imran said the Holy Prophet (PBUH) lived in the hearts of the people of Pakistan. “That is why whenever any disrespect is attempted to his name anywhere in the world, it hurts us,” he added, saying Muslims around the world are also pained by such acts.
Speaking about the events of the past week, he said “It appeared as if one party loves the Prophet (PBUH) more than other Pakistanis.“I assure you that the purpose of the TLP for which they’re bringing people out, that is my purpose as well and that of my government,” he added.
Imran said like the TLP, the government too wanted that there was no blasphemy against the Prophet in any country. “Only our methods are different,” he said, noting that while the TLP wanted the French ambassador to be expelled and Pakistan’s relations to be severed with France, his government had adopted a different strategy.
He continued: “Around 1990, Salman Rushdie wrote a book in which he disrespected our Prophet. The public came out on Pakistani streets, the American embassy was attacked and people were martyred too. “After that, you can see [in history] that after every few years, someone in any Western country does blasphemy against him. Muslims are hurt, there are reactions abroad too and demonstrations here in our country as well but the same process continues after every few years.”
“Has this approach made any difference?” the premier asked, saying the TLP was protesting in the manner seen in the past as well. “Now, I ask will sending the French ambassador back and cutting off all ties with them stop this? Is there any guarantee that no one will commit blasphemy after that?” he said.
The prime minister said even if Pakistan took steps against France, the same disrespect could be done in any other European country “in the name of freedom of opinion”. “There they’ve made it an issue of freedom of expression and on that basis, they will also commit blasphemy [if we take action against France]. So will we send the ambassador [of that country] back too?” He noted that no such demonstrations or demands to expel the French envoy were seen in other Muslim countries. “So firstly, this will have no effect on France but let me tell you what difference it will make to Pakistan.
“The biggest effect will be that after great difficulty our economy is rising, the large-scale industry is getting up after a long time, people are getting jobs, wealth is increasing in our country, our exports are rising and after a long time, our rupee is strengthening. If we send the French ambassador back and end relations with them then this means we will break relations with the European Union,” he explained.
Half of Pakistan’s textile exports are to the EU, the premier noted, and if they are discontinued, it will result in unemployment and the closure of factories in the country. Because textile is the country’s primary export sector, it will also put pressure on the rupee and give rise to inflation and poverty.
“So the loss will be ours, not of France,” Imran emphasised. He said his government had been engaged with and explaining the same to the TLP for the past two-and-a-half months. He added that although the government had agreed to their demand to take the matter to the National Assembly, “we saw that they were mobilising and preparing to come to Islamabad.
“Even as talks were continuing, it emerged that they have already announced that they will stage a sit-in in Islamabad if the French ambassador is not expelled. That is what broke off the talks and they were arrested,” he added. Detailing the losses incurred by the country during the TLP protests last week, Prime Minister Imran said 40 police vehicles had been burnt, damage worth tens of millions of rupees had been caused to people’s private property, and four policemen had been martyred and more than 800 injured.
He further said the blockage of nearly 100 roads when the protest started had prevented oxygen cylinders from reaching Covid-19 patients, resulting in their deaths. “And then Pakistan’s enemies jumped in from abroad. From the 400,000 tweets we have analysed so far, 70 per cent were from fake accounts,” Imran added. “We got to know that there were 380 Indian groups which were circulating fake news through Whatsapp that a civil war has broken out in Pakistan.” He said subsequently political parties such as the JUI-F got involved in the matter to “somehow destabilise the government and cause harm to the country”.
Referring to the PML-N’s criticism of the government, Imran said: “When Salman Rushdie wrote his book, Nawaz Sharif had become the prime minister for the first time.