Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. Image Credit: PID

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday appealed to protesters not to harm the country’s economy at a time when Pakistan is dealing with coronavirus pandemic and economic pressures. He also announced that he wanted a joint approach by all Islamic States to address the issue of Islamophobia.

In an address to the nation, Khan said that the economy had just started picking up and the currency was strengthening and if at this crucial stage Pakistan cuts off ties with France it would damage the country’s export to all European Union (EU) countries, leading to fresh unemployment, more inflation and poverty.

“Violent protests in Pakistan have made no difference to France, rather it seriously affected Pakistan’s economy.” Detailing the casualty and damage due to the protests, Khan said that four policemen were martyred, 800 injured and 40 police cars had been torched.

The premier’s address comes at a time when the government is engaging leaders of the banned ultra right-wing Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party whose supporters have been holding anti-France protests for more than a week over disrespect to Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) in France.

Khan vowed to introduce global joint efforts by Muslim countries against Islamophobia to address the issue at international forums, such as the European Union and United Nations. Khan suggested forbidding blasphemy and insult to Prophet Mohammed in the same manner as denying the Holocaust is an illegal offense in several European countries.

Khan has earlier called on Western governments that have outlawed negative comments about the Holocaust “to use the same standards to penalize those deliberately spreading their message of hate against Muslims by abusing our Prophet.”

In his speech, the premier assured that the objective of protesters and the government is common but the method is different. The way the protesters have been demanding by blocking the streets and vandalising public property has been witnessed after every few years when there’s an incident of blasphemy in any Western country and Muslim sentiments are hurt. But “has this approach made any difference?” he asked, explaining that joint lawful action by Muslim countries is the only way forward to prevent disrespect to the religion.

“This is the time to unite as our economy is showing signs of progress,” Khan said, urging religious scholars and the public to stand together for the country. He also urged people not to play into the hands of enemies by spreading fake news that could fuel panic. “We have reviewed 400,000 tweets [on the protests], and 70 per cent came from fake accounts,” he said.