Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday asked the governments of Western countries to "penalise those deliberately spreading their message of hate against Muslims" by disrespecting Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the same way that they had "outlawed any negative comment against the Holocaust".
In a series of tweets, Prime Minister Imran clarified that his government had only taken action against the recently proscribed Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) after members of the party "challenged the writ of the state, used street violence and attacked the public and law enforcers".
"No one can be above the law and the Constitution," he emphasised.
Addressing the "extremists abroad who indulge in Islamophobia and racist slurs to hurt and cause pain" to the international Muslim community, the prime minister said that Muslims "have the greatest love and respect for our Prophet PBUH" and cannot tolerate any disrespect and abuse.
He added that the "extremists" who sought to hurt Muslim sentiments by deliberately indulging in abuse and hate under the guise of freedom of speech "clearly lack moral sense and courage" to apologise to the 1.3 billion Muslims they hurt.
The prime minister demanded an apology from such people.
Turning to governments in the West, he called on them to "use the same standards to penalise those deliberately spreading their message of hate against Muslims by abusing our Prophet PBUH" as they did regarding comments made about the Holocaust.
TLP protest and ban
Earlier this week, the TLP had taken to the streets across the country especially in Punjab after its chief Saad Hussain Rizvi was detained by security forces in Lahore.
Starting on Monday, charged TLP activists blocked roads across the country, damaged public properties, clashed with police, and even held some law-enforcement personnel hostage, videos of which were widely shared on social media. Expulsion of the French ambassador to Pakistan was one of the key demands of the protesters.
The clashes saw authorities use water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets to hold back crowds. This was followed by the police launching a crackdown against the protesters and getting roads cleared of protest camps.
In September 2020, French magazine Charlie Hebdo had republished blasphemous sketches of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that triggered protests across the Muslim world. In October, a history teacher who had shown blasphemous sketches of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in class was decapitated and his assailant shot dead by French police as they tried to arrest him. In the days that followed the beheading, the caricatures were projected onto the facade of a building in one French city and people displayed them at protests around the country.
Following the killing, French President Emmanuel Macron criticised Islamists and vowed not to "give up cartoons" depicting Prophet Muhammad. Prime Imran Khan as well as other leaders of Muslim countries had denounced the French premier's comments while countrywide protests were held calling for boycott of French products.
TLP was among the parties and groups that mounted protests in Pakistan.
Later, it called off the protests after an agreement was signed between the group and the government that stated that the government would reach a consensus in the parliament regarding the expulsion of the French ambassador within three months, would not appoint its ambassador to France and would release all the arrested workers of the TLP. The government would also not register any case against TLP leaders or workers, it stated.
In the first week of the new year, TLP threatened to relaunch its protest if the government did not fulfil its promise of expelling the French ambassador by Feb 17. However, a new agreement was signed between the party and the government in which it was decided that the latter would present the terms of the earlier agreement in the parliament before April 20.
The government then decided to arrest TLP chief Saad Hussain Rizvi as a "pre-emptive measure" ahead of the deadline, resulting in countrywide protests.
After the latest violent protests, the government on Thursday slapped a ban on the TLP. A notification declaring it as a proscribed organisation was issued by the Ministry of Interior shortly after the federal cabinet approved a summary to ban the party.