The National Assembly on Monday unanimously passed a resolution condemning the publication of blasphemous caricatures in France and the "resurgence of Islamophobic acts" in some countries after a noisy session that saw the government and opposition deliver fiery speeches against each other.
The ruckus initially began due to the opposition and government wanting to present their own versions of the resolution but after lawmakers from both sides exchanged barbs over other political issues, Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri suspended the session for 10 minutes to allow the government and opposition to devise consensus on the resolution.
The move proved fruitful, with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi returning to announce that the government and opposition members had agreed on a unanimous resolution by clubbing their two versions.
According to the resolution read out by the minister, the National Assembly while taking serious note of the republication of blasphemous caricatures depicting Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and the desecration of the Holy Quran in Norway and Sweden "condemns in strongest terms the resurgence of blasphemous and Islamophobic acts by mischievous elements in some parts of the world".
The lower house also expressed serious concern at the "highly concerning statements and hate-mongering especially by leaders like [French] President Emmanuel Macron justifying unlawful propagation and insult to sentiments of more than a billion Muslims through such hate-driven acts under the garb of freedom of expression".
"[The assembly] condemns unequivocally the practice of blasphemy and of insulting prophets of Islam, Christianity and Judaism alike," according to the resolution, which also denounced acts of terror carried out in the name of any religion.
It deplored the "equating of Islam and Muslims with terrorism" and in order to effectively address the issue, urged the government to:
- Recall the Pakistani envoy from Paris
- Work within the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for designating March 15 as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia
- Ask OIC countries to boycott French goods
The resolution, which was subsequently passed unanimously, also called upon all non-OIC countries to provide legal avenues to Muslims residing in their territory for the redressal of their genuine grievances and urged the United Nations secretary general and UN high commissioner for human rights to "immediately initiate a global dialogue for inter-faith harmony and the countering of rising Islamophobia".
Earlier in the day, the Foreign Office (FO) had summoned the French ambassador to Pakistan, Marc Baréty, to lodge a "strong protest" against the publication of blasphemous sketches and recent comments made by the French president.
The French envoy was conveyed Pakistan's "deep concerns over the recent systematic resurgence of blasphemous acts of republication of caricatures of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and desecration of the Holy Quran by certain irresponsible elements", the FO spokesperson said in a statement.
Opposition accused of 'doing politics' on the issue
Earlier, the house witnessed a ruckus as PML-N's Khawaja Asif criticised the government over employing alleged undemocratic practices and presented a resolution to condemn the blasphemous caricatures.
Foreign Minister Qureshi read out another resolution that the government wanted to be passed with consensus on the issue of blasphemy. With opposition members chanting "voting! voting!" for the resolution presented by Asif, a furious Qureshi accused the opposition of "doing politics" on the sensitive matter.
Qureshi said the entire world was anguished over the publication of the blasphemous caricatures and he was disappointed to see the opposition's "non-serious attitude" on the grave issue.
"They want to do politics even on such a sacred matter," he said amid continued noise from the opposition benches.
He said the publication of the sketches had hurt the sentiments of the entire Muslim world and was reflective of the "rising trend of Islamophobia". He added that he had presented a resolution condemning the act on the government's behalf and wanted it to be passed with consensus but the opposition instead resorted to political statements.
Responding to Asif's comment that the government had failed to get Pakistan removed from the 'grey list' of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Qureshi said it was during the PML-N's tenure that Pakistan was placed on the watchdog's list.
He accused the opposition of peddling "India's narrative" and making national institutions "controversial".
"You should be ashamed that slogans for Balochistan's independence were raised from your platform," he said, addressing the opposition benches.
Pointing to Asif, the minister said it appeared to him that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "spirit has been transferred into him".
He said the opposition was showing concern over the recent alleged abduction of the Sindh police chief but dismissed it as "a huge drama".
"The police is yours, the FIR [against PML-N leader Mohammad Safdar] was also lodged under your supervision and you yourself are crying. Whom are you trying to fool?" he said.
Qureshi said the opposition's three rallies under the banner of the Pakistan Democratic Movement had failed to intimidate the government. "We also know how to hold rallies [and] we can resort to verbal attacks as well," he added.
In an apparent reference to PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, he said: "[They] sat with their tail between their legs for a year and tried to do muk muka (covert deal) but when that failed, their democratic values have suddenly woken up."
"By creating misunderstandings in the armed forces and fanning anti-Pakistan narrative, who are you trying to please?" the minister added, amid slogans of "Modi ka jo yaar hai ghaddar hai, ghaddar hai (the friend of Modi is a traitor)".
'Mockery of the government'
In his speech, PML-N's Asif said the country's law and Constitution were "in peril" because members of the government were not in Prime Minister Imran Khan's control. He claimed that several government members were "in contact with us".
"This is a mockery of the government; an apology of the government," he said, announcing that the combined opposition would submit an application detailing the opposition's experiences in the parliament of the past two years to the speaker.
Asif said the federation had "attacked Sindh's rights" and "encroached upon provincial autonomy" by abducting the Sindh IG, and "violated the sanctity of the four walls by breaking into" PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz and her husband Safdar's hotel room in Karachi.
"This is not a good omen for our federation," the PML-N leader said, adding that the grievances of Balochistan's residents were also rising under the incumbent government.
He said even though it was the parliament's job to legislate, the laws to fulfil the requirements of the FATF were not drafted by the government. "You know who drafted those bills," he told the deputy speaker.
PML-N's Ahsan Iqbal said the government had remained silent on the issue for several days and after the opposition took it up, the government "politicised" the matter.
He criticised Qureshi for declaring the entire opposition "Indian agents" and demanded that the foreign minister apologise for his remark.
"Traitor is one who accuses a Pakistani of being a traitor," Iqbal said.
With additional reporting by Amir Wasim in Islamabad.