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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday described non-stop incidents of blasphemy in the West as collective failure of the Muslim world.

“We have failed to convey to the world how much it pains the Muslims across the globe by sacrilege of their Holy Prophet (peace be upon him),” he said during his maiden appearance before the Senate.

The remarks came shortly after the house unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the venomous, vicious and contemptuous decision of Geert Wilders, the notorious Islamophobe belonging to the Dutch Party of Freedom, to hold a “Draw Muhammad Cartoon Competition” later this year in the Netherlands.

PM Khan pointed out that denial of the Holocaust entailed jail sentence in several European countries and the concept of freedom of expression did not apply.

Says he will unveil plan to steer country out of vicious circle of debt in a week

The joint resolution was moved by new Leader of the House Shibli Faraz on behalf of all the parties represented in the Senate.

“The House considers that the proposed competition is tantamount to inciting hatred, racial prejudice, unrest, conflict and insecurity in a world that has already seen much bloodshed, racism, extremism, intolerance and Islamophobia and badly needs peace, interfaith harmony, mutual respect and tolerance,” the resolution said.

The house noted that several countries had anti-blasphemy laws and a number of instruments of international law were in the field.

The Senate reaffirmed that the love for Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was beyond any doubt a part of faith and no Muslim could tolerate any such vicious, contemptuous and calculated insult of the Prophet. “Since under the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973, Islam is the state religion and it is the responsibility of the State to preserve, protect and promote Islam, therefore, it must stand up and articulate the general will of the Muslims of Pakistan against the proposed competition,” the resolution said.

The house recommended that a formal protest may be lodged with the Dutch government through its embassy in Islamabad and a special session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) be convened to formally engage the European Union, United Nations and individual states to chalk out limits of freedom of expression to maintain global peace, harmony and tolerance while ensuring freedom of expression within reasonable and lawful limitations dictated by the common good of humanity at large.

The house also asked the government to agitate the issue at the UN General Assembly for developing global consensus against such blasphemous initiatives by a handful of mischief-mongers whose sole aim seemed to be creating communal discord and social unrest. It said the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony should constitute a committee of Muslim intellectuals and experts to deliberate on the issue and frame workable proposals for preventing blasphemous movies, cartoons, books and other such content.

The prime minister said the matter would be raised at the UN General Assembly session in September as well, but noted that bringing the Muslim world on one page first was the better way to let the world know how seriously the Muslims across the globe took the issue.

He also promised to unveil in a week a plan to steer the country out of vicious circle where it was forced to borrow money for debt servicing. Stressing that curtailing expenses and opening new avenues of income was the way forward, he said parliament would be told how the government wanted to collect taxes. “We need to change our mindset. Tax money of people is not for our royal-like extravagant lifestyle.”

Mr Khan said the palatial governor houses had been built in the country when it was a colony and pointed out that rulers in the civilised world lived an altogether different life. He said the unnecessary fleet of vehicles at the Prime Minister House would be auctioned and the ministers would cut expenses of their ministries.

The prime minister said the ill-gotten wealth stashed in foreign countries would be brought back, the Federal Board of Revenue would be reformed and dead capital and surplus properties would be used to pay back loans. Mr Khan said parliament was the best forum for accountability of the leadership.

RTS fiasco

Earlier, chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior Rehman Malik laid before the house second report of the committee on holding of free, fair and transparent elections.

Speaking on the occasion, he said the Results Transmission System (RTS) had never crashed, adding that the first result through the system was received at 5.45pm (on July 25) and in the next two hours thousands more were transmitted. He, however, said the things were different after 10.30pm. “We are looking into the aspect as to who had ordered to stop it,” he said, adding that the committee needed backup of technical experts.

Mr Malik said the Result Management System was total responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan. He said the committee would present another report later. He said the RTS had become controversial and some aspects needed clarity, adding that the committee would also call political parties and seek evidence of rigging in the last month’s general election.

Opposition walkout

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Raja Muhammad Zafarul Haq demanded formation of a parliamentary commission to probe alleged rigging in the elections. He said facts must be brought forth and remedial measures taken.

He also announced a walkout from the house to highlight seriousness of the issue, which was also joined by other opposition parties. Another walkout was staged by the opposition after Senator Raza Rabbani criticised the prime minister for leaving the house without listening to the opposition.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi rejected the opposition’s objection, saying several ministers were present in the house. He said the prime minister should have been hailed for attending the first Senate session after assuming office.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2018