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Pakistani premier urges West to criminalise blasphemy against Islam

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has called for Muslim countries to band together to lobby Western governments to criminalise disrespect and insult to the holy prophet (peace be upon him), as negotiations between his government and a far-right anti-blasphemy religious group continue.

He stressed only the Muslim world’s collective voice and threat for trade boycott could stop blasphemy, and protests would damage nothing but Pakistan’s reviving economy.

In a televised address to the nation from the capital, Islamabad, on Monday, Khan said he would lead a campaign of Muslim countries to “convince” Western countries on the issue of blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Monday though the objective of both the government and outlawed Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) was to prevent blasphemy, the latter’s approach was counter-productive, as he stressed only the Muslim world’s collective voice and threat for trade boycott could stop blasphemy, and protests would damage nothing but Pakistan’s reviving economy.

“Will expulsion of the French ambassador and cutting ties with them stop this (blasphemy)? Is there any guarantee that no one will do it again? I know the West if Pakistan does it (expels the French envoy), some other European country will do it again in the name of freedom of expression,” the Prime Minister said in his televised address to the nation.

Referring to the protest demonstrations by TLP, amidst their negotiations with the government, the Prime Minister said the riots had left four policemen dead and over 800 injured, besides 40 police vans were gutted and private properties damaged.

Prime Minister Khan said though the objective of both the government and the TLP was to get rid of the blasphemy, the latter’s approach was counter-productive.

“When we will expel the French ambassador and cut ties (with France), it means we will cut ties with the whole of European Union. This means half of our textile exports will come down. This will create unemployment and the rupee will be under pressure thus creating inflation and poverty. We will be on the losing end, not France,” the PM remarked.

Speaking at an event earlier in the day, Prime Minister Khan announced he would lead a strong campaign at the international level along with the heads of Muslim countries to jointly fight against blasphemy.

He said some political and religious parties in the country were “misusing” Islam to play with the sentiments of the common man and were inciting violence.

“The protests and violence will do no harm to the West, but inflict severe damage to your own people,” the Prime Minister said in his address at the groundbreaking of Margalla Highway.

Prime Minister Khan said all the people in the country had a deep love for the Prophet (peace be upon him), adding “such devotion must not be misused”. Pakistan, he said, was formed in the name of Islam and stressed no one should cast doubt about any other person as to how much deeply he respected the holy prophet (peace be upon him).

He said his campaign against blasphemy would have a strong impact compared to the protests. Khan said he had sent letters to the world leaders for the purpose. “I want this issue to be resolved once and for all so that nobody in the world could ever dare to commit blasphemy against our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him),” he said.