Prime Minister Imran Khan, while expressing deep regret over the violent protests by the banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in recent days, said that we both have the same objective but different approaches to achieving that objective.
He said that it seemed like one party felt that they loved the Prophet (P.B.U.H) more than the rest of Pakistan, although we, like them, want to stop blasphemy against the Prophet (P.B.U.H). He said that the members of the banned TLP want there to be no blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H), which is also what the government wants and is struggling for; however, with a different approach.
The Prime Minister said that removing the French Ambassador will have no effect on France. In fact, it would be detrimental to Pakistan itself. He questioned whether expelling the French ambassador from the country would guarantee an end to blasphemy against Prophet (P.B.U.H).
“If we take such a decision today, another European country will start doing the same in the name of freedom of expression,” he said. When we send back the French ambassador, our relationship with the European Union will also end. Our currency will come under pressure, inflation will rise and poverty will increase, it will be to the detriment of Pakistan and not France.
The Prime Minister said that our government had been holding talks with the banned TLP for two and a half months. They demanded that the matter be taken up in the Assembly. When we decided to take up the matter in the Assembly, they started preparations to march to Islamabad. During negotiations, it was learnt that if the French ambassador is not sent back, TLP will hold a sit-in, after which the talks broke down and arrests were made.
Imran Khan said that it was unfortunate that JUI-F and PML-N sprung in and started politics on the issue. “When Salman Rushdie wrote the blasphemous book, Nawaz Sharif was the country’s Prime Minister at that time. How many times did he speak against it? These people have sided with TLP to spread chaos”, he said.
Elaborating on the damage caused by the banned TLP’s protests, the Prime Minister said that so far four policemen have been martyred, more than 800 sustained injuries while 40 police vehicles were set on fire, besides the loss of public property. Many coronavirus patients passed away due to shortage of oxygen cylinders created by road blockages. During all the commotion, a fake social media campaign from India was in full swing to spread panic and misinformation among Pakistanis.
He stressed that the collective voice of whole Muslim world and threat for trade boycott could put a stop to blasphemy as protest demonstrations would damage nothing but Pakistan’s booming economy.