PM Khan refuses to expel French ambassador from Pakistan
By rejecting the demand of banned Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday refused to expel French ambassador from Pakistan.
In a televised address to the nation, the premier said even if Pakistan took steps against France, the same disrespect could be done in any other European country "in the name of freedom of opinion".
Khan referred to the violence perpetrated by TLP activists over the last week after their leader's arrest and the ensuing government crackdown as "regrettable" incidents.
Prime Minister Imran said the Holy Prophet (PBUH) lived in the hearts of the people of Pakistan. "That is why whenever any disrespect is attempted to his name anywhere in the world, it hurts us," he added, saying Muslims around the world are also pained by such acts.
"I assure you that the purpose of the TLP for which they're bringing people out, that is my purpose as well and that of my government to end incidents of blasphemy around the world, their methodologies to deal with the issue were different," he added.
"Only our methods are different," he said, noting that while the TLP wanted the French ambassador to be expelled and Pakistan's relations to be severed with France, his government had adopted a different strategy.
"Now, I ask will sending the French ambassador back and cutting off all ties with them stop this? Is there any guarantee that no one will commit blasphemy after that?" he questioned.
"In Europe, they've made it an issue of freedom of expression and on that basis, they will also commit blasphemy [if we take action against France]. So will we send the ambassador [of that country] back too?"
He noted that no such demonstrations or demands to expel the French envoy were seen in other Muslim countries. "So firstly, this will have no effect on France but let me tell you what difference it will make to Pakistan.
"The biggest effect will be that after great difficulty our economy is rising, the large-scale industry is getting up after a long time, people are getting jobs, wealth is increasing in our country, our exports are rising and after a long time, our rupee is strengthening. If we send the French ambassador back and end relations with them then this means we will break relations with the European Union," he explained.
Half of Pakistan's textile exports are to the EU, the premier noted, and if they are discontinued, it will result in unemployment and the closure of factories in the country. Because textile is the country's primary export sector, it will also put pressure on the rupee and give rise to inflation and poverty.
"So the loss will be ours, not of France," Imran emphasised.
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.
Khan 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.