Prime Minister Imran Khan lamented on Monday that political and religious parties in Pakistan "misused" Islam to deal damage to the country and said he had started a campaign with heads of other Muslim countries to present the case of the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) honour on international forums.
Addressing the groundbreaking ceremony for the Margalla Highway in Islamabad, the prime minister said: "ln our country it is a great misfortune that many times our political parties and religious parties use Islam wrongly and use it such that they deal damage to their own country."
He said that the people of Pakistan loved the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and nowhere in any country had he seen "the kind of attachment with religion and love for Prophet (PBUH) as in our country".
"So I am saddened that many times this love is misused. Does the government not worry about this? That when there is disrespect of Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) honour then aren't we pained?" he questioned, adding that who could decide how much or how less someone loved the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
The premier's comments come after recent violence in the country by the now proscribed Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) against the arrest of their leader Saad Hussain Rizvi.
On Sunday, TLP workers took 11 policemen hostage after an attack on a police station in Lahore. The officials were released early on Monday after the first round of talks with the government.
The prime minister said that such actions did not benefit Islam in any way and no loss was dealt to the country in which the blasphemous act was committed. Instead, only Pakistan suffered a loss, he said.
"Violent protests in Pakistan will make no difference to the country where the blasphemous act has occurred."
He vowed to introduce a campaign which would seek to join Muslim countries so that the issue can be taken up on international forums, such as the European Union and United Nations.
He said that there will come a time when people in Western countries will think twice about disrespecting the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
"When we begin a campaign by bringing together all Muslim countries [...] it will make a difference and change will come in the West. Otherwise we will continue vandalising the country and it will make no difference to the Western world."
The premier said that through this campaign, a permanent solution would be found to the issue so that no one sitting abroad can insult the honour of Holy Prophet (PBUH).
On Saturday, PM Imran had 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".
Addressing the "extremists abroad who indulge in Islamophobia and racist slurs to hurt and cause pain" to the international Muslim community, the prime minister had 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.
'National park will be protected'
Commenting on the Margalla Highway project, the prime minister said there had been concerns among some that construction would cut through the middle of the Margalla Hills National Park.
He said he had received a briefing from the chairman of the Capital Development Authority and this concern was "completely wrong".
Instead, he said, the Margalla Hills National Park would be protected due to the construction of the road since it "will become a kind of wall".
"There has been rapid encroachment in our green areas and parks in the past 20 years. Once this road is built, the national park will be on that side and it will be protected."
He said that the project would also benefit tourism by reducing traffic jams on routes leading to popular tourist destinations, and will direct traffic from Lahore and other cities in Punjab to outside the city.
"There is need for us to improve the infrastructure in Islamabad," he said, adding that the capital's population had increased 1.5 times in the last 20 years. Infrastructure, he said, should grow with with the population.
PM Imran said that Islamabad was a city like no other with plentiful rainfall, pleasant weather, proximity to the Himalaya mountains and greenery. "The people of Islamabad specially care for and worry about the environment," he said, adding that the incumbent government also shared those concerns.
He said that the majority of Pakistan's forest cover had reduced since the country's inception and only 600 million trees had been planted. The premier said this would have repercussions for upcoming generations in the form of climate change.
He said that due to global warming, Pakistan would face water shortage. "Most of our water comes from glaciers in the mountains. We are going to face a lot of issues in the future once those glaciers melt and the climate becomes warmer.
"We must ensure that our environment, green cover and trees sustain the least amount of damage," he said.