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A day after lodging a diplomatic protest with the Norwegian government over the desecration of the Holy Quran by an Islamophobic and anti-Muslim group, Pakistan announced on Sunday that it would raise the matter at the international forums.
The decision was taken by the core committee of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The sacrilegious act, meanwhile, whipped up nationwide anger as protest rallies were staged in different towns and cities of the country.
“The core committee unanimously condemned the desecration of the Holy Quran and decided to take up the matter in the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the European Union (EU),” said Firdous Ashiq Awan, the special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, while briefing the media after the meeting.
The head of the extreme right-wing group – Stop the Islamisation of Norway (SION) – last week staged a protest against Islam in the Norwegian city of Kristiansand where the group’s head attempted to burn a copy of the Holy Scripture.
A young man, identified as Umer Ilyas, prevented Lars Thorson from committing the blasphemous act, but the latter threw it in a waste container in the presence of a police contingent. Ilyas, who is being hailed as hero by Muslims worldwide, was taken into custody by the police.
Pakistan conveys ‘deep concern’ to Norway over desecration of Holy Quran
Firdous said the core committee has also passed a resolution on the issue which “will be submitted in the OIC and the EU”.
The public desecration of the Holy Quran has shocked and angered 1.3 billion Muslims around the world, including those in Pakistan, with Islamic scholars and clerics denouncing the blasphemous act which was allowed to be staged by Norwegian authorities in the name of “freedom of expression.”
Pakistan’s foreign ministry on Saturday summoned Norway’s ambassador to lodge a diplomatic protest. Oslo was urged to bring those responsible for the sacrilegious act to justice and prevent recurrence of such an incident in the future. Pakistan’s ambassador in Oslo was also directed to convey Pakistan’s protest and deep concern to Norwegian authorities.
On the streets, meanwhile, protest rallies were staged in different towns and cities of the country against the desecration of the Holy Quran. Protesters called upon the government to snap trade relations with Norway.
Dozens of activists of the politico-religious Jamaat-i-Islami party staged a demonstration outside Peshwar Press Club where they demanded that the Pakistan government use diplomatic channels to press Western countries to ban such blasphemous acts.
The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Bar Council also denounced the incident and decided to boycott courts across the province on Nov 25 in protest against the sacrilegious act. Similar rallies were also staged in other cities.
Meanwhile, a Norwegian police commissioner has warned people that desecrating the Holy Quran and making hate speeches can result in a violation of the criminal code of conduct, according to a foreign news agency.
The police commissioner said that everyone had the right to freedom of expression so long as it did not violate the law. He warned that if the law was violated, then police would interfere.
Foreign funding case
About the foreign funding case being heard in the Election Commission of Pakistan, the core committee urged the ECP to investigate funding sources of all political parties instead of singling out the ruling PTI.
Firdous said the opposition was occupying television screens to propagate a baseless and false propaganda, exaggeration and conjecture about the case of funding of the PTI before the Election Commission.
She said the core committee has expressed its apprehensions and decided to bring facts before the masses through the media as the opposition was trying to mislead them.
“The PTI’s legal team will present facts about the party's case to the Election Commission and will act to curb disinformation and fake news,” she added.
The PTI was the pioneer in generating funds from public, she said and added that it had spearheaded calls for electoral and political reforms.
“The Pakistani diaspora believes in the credibility of the PTI and considers it as the saviour of Pakistan and supports it while observing laws related to funding,” she said. "If Pakistani companies and diaspora support the party, then it cannot be called foreign funding."
Firdous said the PTI had no objection to go through the legal process of the ECP which would no doubt ensure its credibility, dignity and rule of law and justice.
She stressed that there were serious allegations against other parties and the poll supervisory body should hold hearings. “The commission should carry out an audit of all political parties,” she added.
The special assistant said it was priority of Prime Minister Imran Khan to ensure independence of the ECP and strengthen it as an institution.
“The opposition has been crying that the last election had been rigged and the ECP did not hold the polls in a free and fair manner but at the same time it went to the commission asking for a daily hearing of the PTI funding case,” she wondered.
Firdous said people come and go but institutions are here to stay. “Why the opposition is in a hurry to get a decision of their choosing against a political party,” she added. “Across the board accountability should be held,” she said while voicing hope that the ECP would act according to the law and the Constitution.
(With additional input from APP)