Monday Apr 19, 2021
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday addressed the nation, a day after over a dozen police officers were taken hostage by the supporters of a banned outfit in Lahore.
During his address, PM Imran Khan reminded the nation that Pakistan was built on the principles of Islam. He stressed that the government is on the same page with the TLP regarding the protection of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)'s honour, however, expelling the ambassador of France is not the solution to Islamophobia.
"The West has made this an issue of freedom of speech and if we send back the French ambassador, some other European country will follow suit," PM Imran Khan said.
He said that if Pakistan starts sending back ambassadors of different countries, the economy will suffer, but it would not make a difference to France or any other country.
The PM then talked about the violent countrywide protests that took place over the last few days and said that vandalising property will not reap any benefits.
Detailing the loss of lives, the number of people injured, and the damage done to properties during the protests, the PM said that the TLP believes it is the only party in the country that loves the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
"The government has been negotiating with the TLP for the last two-and-a-half months," the PM said, adding that the party have held protests before too but it did not make a difference to France.
"I know the West better than anyone else, so I know how to deal with the problem too," the PM stressed, adding that vandalising our own property, killing and injuring our own people will not make a difference to France at all.
He then talked about the government's strategy to deal with Islamophobia. The PM detailed how he had been raising the issue on different international forums, including the United Nations, and also wrote to Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg regarding the matter.
The Prime Minister said that the government believes in approaching the heads of all Muslim nations so that a collective strategy could be formulated to deal with Islamophobia.
Citing the example of how European nations came together to strengthen laws regarding the Holocaust and criminalised its denial, he said that Muslim nations, too, should work collectively to eliminate Islamophobia which is being practised in the West in the name of freedom of speech.
The Prime Minister also appealed to the religious scholars of Pakistan and said that violent protests and clashes with the police will only hurt the country and provide fodder to Indian websites and other enemies of the state to capitalise on the situation.
"We all must unite and thank Allah for His mercy," the PM said. "We coped with the coronavirus situation in the country and have steered our economy towards betterment. Let's not sabotage this process by holding the country hostage to violence."
Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed, earlier on Monday, announced that 11 policemen, who were taken hostage in Lahore by the proscribed Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) have been released after negotiations carried out by the Punjab government.
In a video statement, the interior minister said the “first round of talks” concluded in a "successful manner" after which the policemen were released and the protesters had gone inside the Masjid Rehmatulil Alameen. He added that the police had also been withdrawn.
Rasheed hoped that other matters would also be sorted out in the next round, which would be held after Sehri.
The minister added that out of 192 blockades, only one was remaining and the situation was improving there as well.
“Talks have begun with the banned TLP and hopefully issues will be resolved with them,” Rasheed stated.
All 16 police officials taken hostages on Sunday were released at 2:10 a.m. Monday morning, the spokesperson for Lahore CCPO Rana Arif told Geo.tv.
The four demands of the TLP included the release of their leader Saad Rivi, for TLP to be unbanned, all FIRs against their workers be dropped and a resolution be presented in the parliament to expel the French ambassador, the official added.
Yesterday, 36 policemen were injured in clashes with the rioters. Of which one is critical, Arif said.
The 16 hostages were kept in the basement of a mosque and tortured.