ISLAMABAD  -   Prime Minister Imran Khan Monday told Senate that the government will raise the issue of blasphemous caricatures contest at the United Nations in the upcoming UN General Assembly session.

He also said they will push the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to evolve consensus to raise a collective voice against such acts so the world is compelled to pay heed to it.

In his maiden address in the Upper House of the Parliament, the prime minister said the recurrence of such blasphemous activities to desecrate the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was the collective failure of the OIC.

The prime minister spoke soon after the House unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the “venomous, vicious and contemptuous decision of Mr Geert Wilders, the notorious Islamophobe, belonging to the Dutch Party of Freedom to hold a 'Draw Muhammad Cartoon Competition' to be held later this year in the Netherlands."

“We will raise this issue at the United Nations. Such acts are carried out to provoke the Muslims,” the premier added. "However, I do not think that would do much." He added as he knew the western mindset, they would not backtrack from such activities and continue it in name of the freedom of expression.

Imran Khan said majority in the west did not know as how the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was revered among the Muslims. “The people in the West do not know the intensity of such acts.”

He recalled that after the Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses, such incidents had happened repeatedly. He said the anti-Muslim elements in the west had found it an easier way to malign and hurt the Muslims.

On the other hand, he said, four European countries had introduced jail sentence for even interpreting the Holocaust neglecting the freedom of expression.

The prime minister said his government would therefore make efforts to evolve consensus at the level of OIC. He reiterated that the Muslim world would first have to unite before making the west realise that Muslims felt hurt by such actions.

“We will convince the OIC to form a joint strategy that could then be brought up at international forums," the premier said, adding that absence of a joint strategy against the generation of blasphemous content was a collective failure on part of Muslim world. “We will develop consensus at OIC level,” he maintained.

New plan

Prime Minister Imran Khan in his address said that his government had started austerity drive and a plan was on the cards to be announced within a week how to decrease the expenditures of the government, increase its income and reform the tax net. “I have come here to convince the senators to take part in the austerity drive,” he said.

Imran Khan said that though government’s austerity drive would bring smaller savings, but it will send out the message to taxpayers that they care about their money. “We want to spend the public money only on the masses,” he said adding the people will not pay taxes when they do not have trust in the government.

The PM said that the government was actually making an atmosphere, as on one side, they were cutting out their expenses and on the other side increasing their resources of income. “We are bringing reforms in the Federal Board of Revenue,” he added. He said that the government would overhaul the governance system to win confidence of overseas Pakistanis to convince them to invest in Pakistan

He said that he was being advised to go to UN but he understood that they should go to UN only after bringing the system on the right track.

He said his government was committed to raising the stature of the Parliament and added that he and his team would be available for accountability, with the sole objective of improving governance. He said the government had discussed the matter with the National Assembly speaker for amendment in rules to allow the prime minister answer the questions at Question Hour.



Opposition Protest

Soon after the speech of the prime minister, former Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani told Senate Deputy Chairman Saleem Mandviwala that he wanted to speak in response to the speech of premier.

As it was being expected that PPP leader Rabbani would give a tough response, the PM left the house soon after Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry whispered to him amid slogans of opposition benches: “shame shame.”

Rabbani said that this was a sovereign house and it was unfair that PM did not hear the opposition. The opposition benches strongly protested over the prime minister’s decision to leave the house and staged a protest walkout from the house.

After this, PML-N Senator Chaudhry Tanveer pointed out quorum and the house was adjourned due to lack of quorum.

Earlier in the start of the session, the opposition also staged a protest walkout from the house after the Chairman Standing Committee on Interior Senator Rehman Malik presented the interim report of the committee on holding of free and fair elections.

Leaders of the Opposition Raja Zafarul Haq remarked that the standing committee did not have the capacity to probe allegation of rigging in the election systematically and demanded a parliamentary commission to probe the matter before his walkout.

Rehman Malik said that Result Transmission System (RTS) never collapsed and they were looking into it who had ordered to stop RTS on the Election Day.

JUI-F Senator Maulana Attaur Rehman also lashed out at the PTI lawmakers when Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak gave some suggestions on the matter of governance.

Maulana said that PTI should run affairs of its government instead of making suggestions. “Earlier you have been abusing army and other institutions and now abusing bureaucracy,” he added.



Senate resolution

Earlier, the Senate its resolution stated, “The House considers that the proposed (cartoon drawing) competition tantamount to inciting hatred, racial prejudice, unrest, conflict and insecurity in a world that has already seen much bloodshed, racism, extremism, intolerance and Islamophobia and badly needs peace, interfaith harmony, mutual respect and tolerance.”

“The Senate of Pakistan reaffirms that the love for our beloved Prophet (SAW) is beyond any doubt a part of our faith and no Muslim can tolerate any such vicious, contemptuous and calculated insult of our beloved Prophet (SAW),” the resolution added.

The Senate also agreed to lodge a formal protest with the Dutch government through its embassy in the country. A special session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) may also be convened to formally engage the European Union, the UN and individual states to chalk out limits of freedom of expression to maintain global peace, the Upper House decided.

Lawmakers urged the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Inter-Faith Harmony to constitute a committee of Muslim intellectuals and experts to deliberate on the issue and frame workable proposals for preventing such blasphemous movies, cartoons, books and other such content.

Last week, Pakistan lodged a strong protest with the Netherlands over the Dutch politician’s announcement of holding the competition.



Other resolutions

The house on a private members’ day passed a resolution moved by the Leader of the House Senator Shibli Faraz which recommended that the government should take necessary steps for creation of analytical database wing in all ministries in order to facilitate policy-making of the respective ministry.

The house also passed a resolution that recommended that the government should take immediate steps to ensure appointment of disabled persons against the quota reserved for them in the federal government departments. The Adviser to PM on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan informed that house that the government had prepared a summary to increase the job quota of disabled persons from 2 percent to 4 percent and they would have age relaxation up to 10 years in jobs.


Pakistan to prod OIC for united voice