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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Monday that there would be grave economic consequences for Pakistan if it decides to sever relations with France and expel the French ambassador on the demand of Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP).

In a televised address to the nation on last week's sorrowful incidents, the prime minister said his government's and the TLP's goals on the honour of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) are identical but the latter's approach is different from former's.

The PM said: "My question is: Is there any guarantee that there will be no incident of disrespect if the French ambassador is expelled from Pakistan and relations with the French are severed?"

He also explained the likely economic consequences for Pakistan in case the government decides to end relations with France.

The prime minister said that half of the country's exports would be adversely affected as the EU is a major destination of country's exports.

He said severing relations with France would mean severing relationship with the entire EU, which is the destination of half of country's exports, the prime minister pointed out.

The prime minister said the economy has just started to show some growth, large scale industry is increasing, people are getting employment, rupee is becoming stronger, and exports are showing positive growth.

The prime minister said that when the country's exports would be halved, its impacts would negatively affect jobs and country's foreign exchange reserves.

The prime minister said: "Such protests will not make any impact on the French but if the TLP's demands are met, it would have grave economic consequences for Pakistan."

The prime minister said he decided to speak to the nation following the unfortunate situation of the last week.

He said that Holy Prophet (PBUH) lives in the hearts of the people, so whenever an act of disrespect in his honour is committed, it causes immense pain to the people of Pakistan and other Muslim-majority countries.

The prime minister said similar protests were held in the 1990s against Salman Rushdi who had written a blasphemous book, adding that the US embassy was attacked during those protests.

Since then, the premier said, every few years, somebody in Western countries had committed disrespect in the honour of the holy Prophet (PBUH).

He asked: "Has this approach (protests) brought about any change?" He added that the same thing is now being done by the TLP.

He said he knows the West more than anyone else, saying that even if Pakistan sever its relations with France, a similar incident would take place in some other Western country in the name of freedom of expression.

The prime minister said that there are 50 Muslim-majority countries and none of them, except Pakistan, is witnessing such protests.

He added that the government had been engaged in talks with the TLP for two and a half months and apprised them about the likely consequences.

Explaining why the government-TLP talks came to an end, he said the TLP wanted the government to move a resolution in the parliament but suddenly it announced that it would stage a dharna (sit-in) in Islamabad if the government did not expel the French ambassador.

The prime minister said he would himself launch a campaign along with heads of other Muslim-majority countries and present the case of the honour of Holy Prophet (PBUH) at international forums such as the United Nations and the European Union to ensure that no disrespect in the honour of Holy Prophet (PBUH) is committed in future.

The prime minister said 40 police vehicles were burnt, five police officials martyred, over 800 wounded and millions of rupees worth of property was damaged.

Out of 0.4 million tweets, he said, 60 percent were fake tweets and added that some political parties have also become a part of the campaign to destabilise the government.

The prime minister also recounted his efforts that he has made against Islamophobia and stated that all the heads of state of Muslim-majority countries should jointly make the West understand that disrespect of Holy Prophet (PBUH) hurts over 1.8 billion Muslims across the world.

He said only a joint boycott by 50 Muslim-majority countries would have an impact on them.

The prime minister sought help from Ulemas to help the government deal with the challenge successfully.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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