Pak­istan PM praised for stand against hard­lin­ers as blas­phemy protests per­sist

Global Times US Edition - - WORLD -

Pak­istan’s Prime Min­is­ter Im­ran Khan won praise for his stance against re­li­gious hard­lin­ers Thurs­day, as demon­stra­tors blocked ma­jor roads to protest the Supreme Court’s over­turn­ing of a blas­phemy con­vic­tion.

Khan has vowed to con­front ex­trem­ists who called for the assassinat­ion of the coun­try’s Supreme Court jus­tices, and for mutiny against the army’s top brass, af­ter the ac­quit­tal of Asia Bibi, a Chris­tian woman on death row for blas­phemy.

“We will pro­tect peo­ple’s prop­er­ties and lives, we will not al­low any sab­o­tage,” Khan said in a na­tion­ally tele­vised ad­dress on Wed­nes­day.

Blas­phemy is a mas­sively in­flam­ma­tory charge in Mus­lim­ma­jor­ity Pak­istan, where even un­proven al­le­ga­tions of in­sult­ing Is­lam and its Prophet Mo­hammed can pro­voke death at the hands of vig­i­lantes.

Khan’s speech drew praise across so­cial me­dia, in­clud­ing from those formerly crit­i­cal of the prime min­is­ter.

Prom­i­nent jour­nal­ist Moshar­raf Zaidi hailed a “re­mark­able speech” and a col­umn in the English daily Dawn said Khan had taken “an un­equiv­o­cal and strong line against re­li­gious big­otry and ha­tred that we have not seen taken in al­most two decades.”

“Prime Min­is­ter Im­ran Khan was ad­mirably forth­right in con­demn­ing those who be­lieve vi­o­lence is the ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse to a ju­di­cial ver­dict with which they dis­agree,” said the English-lan­guage The News, which is of­ten a critic of the PM.

Oth­ers how­ever high­lighted the prime min­is­ter’s mixed record on ad­dress­ing the con­tro­versy around blas­phemy is­sues in Pak­istan.

“Wish Im­ran khan had de­liv­ered sim­i­lar speech in the last Faiz­abad dharna,” tweet- ed Balal Haider, re­fer­ring to Khan’s si­lence dur­ing sim­i­lar anti-blas­phemy protests last year.

There was no in­di­ca­tion Thurs­day that the author­i­ties were pre­par­ing to clear the small pock­ets of pro­test­ers that con­tinue to block ma­jor thor­ough­fares in the cities of La­hore, Is­lam­abad and Karachi.

The demon­stra­tions are be­ing largely led by the Tehreeke-Labaik Pak­istan (TLP) party, which is known for its hard­line stance on blas­phemy is­sues.

TLP, founded in 2015, block­aded the cap­i­tal Is­lam­abad for sev­eral weeks last year call­ing for stricter en­force­ment of Pak­istan’s blas­phemy laws.

That protest forced the res­ig­na­tion of the fed­eral law min­is­ter and paved the way for the group to poll more than 2.23 mil­lion votes in the July 25 gen­eral elec­tion, in what an­a­lysts called a “sur­pris­ingly” rapid rise.

The party’s chief Khadim Hus­sain Rizvi has also vowed to “wipe Hol­land off the face of the earth” over car­toons of the Prophet Mo­hammed if TLP were able to se­cure power of the nu­clear-armed coun­try.

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