n April, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan denounced the West, particularly France, and called for a coalition of Muslim countries to use economic power to force the West to pass blasphemy laws protecting Muslim sentiments. At the same time, Pakistan’s uptick in cases of blasphemy against religious minorities has led to the European Parliament calling for a review of Pakistan’s GSP+ trade status. Without losing the irony of the situation, Pakistan has squarely positioned itself for economic loss.
The situation escalated mid-April when Pakistani police arrested Saad Husain Rizvi, the leader of an extremist Islamist political party, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), after he announced a protest against the government over its failure to kick the French envoy out of Pakistan. TLP had been advocating for its removal since September of last year after the French magazine Charlie Hebdo again reprinted caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. In response to Rizvi’s arrest, widespread rioting throughout the nation (organized by TLP over WhatsApp) resulted in hundreds of police injuries, some deaths, and a number held hostage and tortured. The government quickly banned TLP and ordered for the seizure of its assets, which arguably will only strengthen the TLP’s power.
However, TLP’s strength remains. Negotiations between TLP and Khan’s government resulted in talks of the National Assembly about voting on whether to expel the French embassy. Conflicting reports about Rizvi’s release also emerged. Khan himself responded that, while he denounced TLP’s methods, he held the same goals, notably to end Islamophobia globally. To do so, he pledged to create a coalition of Muslim nations that would jointly work together to stop blasphemy of the Prophet Muhammad by using threats of trade boycotts. Ideally for them, such blasphemy laws would carry the same consequence as denying the Holocaust in some European countries, which for Germany and France is punishable with imprisonment. Incidentally, the Holocaust is not a part of school curriculum in Pakistan, with many only learning about the mass murder of Jews during World War II after leaving the country. …
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