Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday issued a stark warning to religiopolitical groups that have been agitating against the Supreme Court verdict to acquit Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death on charges of committing blasphemy.
The premier addressed the matter in a short video message that solely focused on the Asia Bibi verdict and its aftermath. The message was broadcast on state-run PTV.
He said he had been “compelled” to communicate with the nation due to the reaction given and language used by a “small segment” in response to the SC verdict.
Pakistan was founded “in the name of Islam” and the verdict given by the SC is in accordance with the Constitution, which is in line with the teachings of the Holy Quran and sunnah, he said.
He sharply criticised the protests that broke out, and are still underway, across the country in response to the judgement, saying people’s livelihood was being harmed through the roadblocks and demonstrations.
The premier regretted the language used by hardliners against SC judges, the raising of questions against the army chief’s faith and the call for a rebellion amongst the armed forces.
“It is my belief that the principles on which Pakistan was founded… if they are not adhered to Pakistan has no future.
“Our faith is incomplete if we don’t love our Prophet [PBUH],” he said, and highlighted his government’s efforts to fight blasphemous content.
“Which government can function when people say that kill the judges, rebel against the army chief?
“We are already facing such tough economic hurdles. My cabinet and I have yet to take a day off… we are struggling continuously to uplift the people [and] to improve the conditions of the underprivileged.”
Referring to the protesters who have disrupted routine life across the country, he said: “If the Supreme Court does not issue a verdict according to their wishes, does that mean they will come out on the roads and paralyse the country?
“The people are to bear the brunt of this. The labourers who are reliant on daily wages… how will they feed their children?”
The prime minister urged the nation not to allow themselves to be “provoked” by the agitators.
“This is not a service being done for Islam. This is enmity taking place against the country,” Khan observed.
In a stern warning to the extremist elements, the prime minister said: “I appeal to these elements… do not clash with the state.
“I appeal to you, don’t harm this country in order to [increase your] vote bank.
“If you continue doing this… let me make it clear to you… the state will fulfil its duty [and] protect people’s properties and lives.
“We will not allow any vandalism [or] blockage of traffic.
“I appeal to you… do not take the state to a point where it has no option but to take action,” he concluded.
Prime Minister Khan’s address comes as supporters of various religiopolitical groups burnt tires and blocked roads across various parts of the country in reaction to the SC verdict.
For hours the acquittal was met with near silence on the country’s airwaves as broadcasters appeared to steer clear of covering the controversial topic.
One of the most vocal groups — the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) — called for “mutiny” against the army’s top brass and the assassination of the top court’s justices.
Severe traffic jams ensued, causing great diffculty to commuters who reported being stuck on the roads for multiple hours.
The Punjab home department as well as the Sindh and Balochistan governments imposed Section 144 across the respective provinces citing “threats to the law and order situation, sectarian harmony and public peace”. Paramilitary troops were deployed in Islamabad to prevent protesters from reaching the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl has announced that it will hold countrywide protests on Friday in opposition to the SC ruling.