Talking tough, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday night told hardliners not to “confront the state” and refrain from vandalism after the Supreme Court acquitted a Christian woman sentenced to death for committing blasphemy.
Khan addressed the nation through a video message and his address was solely focused on the Asia Bibi verdict. Bibi, a 47-year-old mother of four, who was on death row for eight years for blasphemy, was acquitted by the Supreme Court in a landmark verdict, which evoked protests, death threats from hardline groups and cheers from human rights advocates. I ask these elements [protesters] to avoid confronting the state. But if they opted to do so, the state will fulfil its responsibilities,” Khan said. “We will protect life and property of people… We will not let them [protesters] involve in vandalism or close down the roads,” he said, referring to protesters blocking a highway linking the capital Islamabad with the garrison city of Rawalpindi.
Many parts of Karachi were paralysed due to the protests and most of the main roads were shut down by the protesters who were burning tyres and pelting stones at vehicles. Khan appealed to the public to remain calm and refrain from joining those trying to create a law and order problem in the name of Islam. Imran Khan said that he was forced to give the address after the reaction by protesters against the Asia Bibi verdict and the kind of language they were using against state institutions. Khan also flayed a video clip of a leader of protesters on social media in which he said that the judges who gave the Asia Bibi verdict were liable to murder.
“How a state can function in such circumstances… Those involved in this are not doing any service to Islam. They are, in fact, enemies of Islam,” Khan said. Referring to the protesters who disrupted routine life across the country, Khan said, “If the Supreme Court does not issue a verdict according to their wishes, will they come out on the roads?” Khan also said Pakistan was created in the name of Islam and no law can be made against the teachings of Islam. He said the verdict was issued in the light of the Constitution of the country, which is also based on Islam. Khan said the government was working hard to improve the economy, and the protesters were creating hurdles to get political mileage out of the Asia Bibi verdict.
“We are already facing such tough economic hurdles. We have yet to take a day off… we are struggling continuously to uplift the people [and] to improve the conditions of the underprivileged,” he said. “The people are to bear the brunt of this. The labourers who are reliant on daily wages… how will they survive?” Khan asked. Imran Khan held a meeting with Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and discussed the security situation in the country due to the protests against the Asia Bibi verdict. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry tweeted that Khan and Bajwa discussed the overall situation after the Asia Bibi verdict and important affairs during the meeting.