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‘We Are Harming Our Own Country’

by Newsweek Pakistan

Courtesy PID

P.M. Khan regrets that some religious and political parties are misusing Islam in commentary on ongoing unrest by supporters of the banned TLP

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday urged Pakistanis rioting against the government’s decision to ban the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan party to not fall for narratives that “misuse Islam,” and stressed that such violence only harms their own country.

“I want to make clear that we love Islam’s Prophet (peace be upon him). I haven’t seen as much affection and respect for the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in any country other than Pakistan,” he said at the groundbreaking ceremony of the Margalla Avenue project in Islamabad. “We all have the same goal, but it is a pity that many times our love [for Islam’s Prophet] is misused. Do we [government] not also suffer when our Prophet’s (PBUH) honor is insulted? Who decides this? Has anyone torn out another’s heart out to see who loves the Prophet (PBUH) more?” he said.

Reiterating his pledge to run a sustained campaign against blasphemy globally, he regretted that some “political and religious parties unfortunately misuse Islam, which harms our country.” Khan did not make any reference to his full-throated for the TLP in 2017, when their riots brought the federal capital to a standstill, forced the law minister to resign, and resulted in an assassination attempt on then-interior minister Ahsan Iqbal. At the time, Khan had declared that he had been “under pressure” by PTI workers to join the TLP on the streets.

Noting that the western world was unaffected by the violent clashes sweeping across Pakistan, he stressed that through such actions “we are just harming ourselves.” The past week’s protests have resulted in several deaths—of police, civilians and protesters—and even more injuries.

“When we misuse this [love for Islam’s Prophet], we are not doing any benefit to our religion,” he said. “It is leading to crime in the country. This doesn’t harm them [the west], it harms our own country,” he said. “I promise the nation that if there’s anyone who will run a global campaign on this issue, it is me. This campaign is already underway. We will bring the heads of the Muslim countries together and present our case in the United Nations and the European Union in order to be heard in an effective way,” he reiterated. In October 2020, the premier had written to all Muslim heads of state urging them to unite against Islamophobia. There has been no progress on this despite the passage of six months.

Nevertheless, the prime minister claimed, his “campaign will make a difference,” adding that this would make people in the West “think twice” before insulting the honor of Islam’s Prophet. “Destruction [of public and private property] in our own country is no answer to this problem. The West doesn’t care. We are harming our own country,” he added.

Margalla Hills

Referring to the Margalla Highway project, the prime minister admitted there were concerns that it would damage the ecology of the Margalla Hills National Park, as it cuts through the middle of it. Claiming that this perception was “completely wrong,” he said that the road would actually serve as a “wall” protecting the park from encroachments.

“There has been rapid encroachment in our green areas and parks in the past 20 years. Once this road is built, the national park will be on that side and it will be protected,” he claimed, adding that the project would boost tourism by reducing traffic on routes leading to popular hill stations and directing traffic from Punjab to outside the federal capital.

“There is need for us to improve the infrastructure in Islamabad,” he said, claiming infrastructure should grow with the population.

Appreciating Islamabad’s greenery, the premier noted that the city’s residents had greater awareness of protecting the environment. Reiterating his claims of the majority of Pakistan’s forest cover having been reduced without care for replantation, he said that his government was planting trees to overcome this for future generations.

“Most of our water comes from glaciers in the mountains. We are going to face a lot of issues in the future once those glaciers melt and the climate becomes warmer,” he said of climate change, stressing that planting trees would help reduce this.

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