Amid an ongoing standoff with Tehreek-i-Labbaik (TLP), a radical Islamist party recently banned by the Pakistani government and its leader arrested, Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the nation in a tone distinctly conciliatory.
The purpose for which the TLP is bringing people out, that’s the purpose of my government as well. Only our methods are different, he said in a televised speech.
Pakistan has been rocked by a spiral of street protests and violence led by TLP whose leader Saad Rizwi wants the French ambassador expelled since the French government expressed support for a magazine’s right to republish caricatures of the Prophet, which is considered blasphemy by Muslims.
“Will sending the French ambassador back and cutting off all ties with them stop this? Is there any guarantee that no one will commit blasphemy after that,” he asked.
Expelling the ambassador would mean breaking ties with the European Union (EU), Imran said, adding that it would hit the Pakistani textile sector badly as half of the country’s textile exports are to the EU. “The loss will be ours, not of France. So this is the time to unite.”