A hardline cleric has alleged that Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif committed blasphemy when he said Islam does not allow forced conversion and discrimination against minorities in his speech on Holi.
Allama Ashraf Jalali, a leader of Pakistan Ahle Sunnah wa Jama’ah group and secretary of Sunni Ittehad Council, alleged Sharif of committing blasphemy and attacked Pakistan’s ideological basis in the speech he delivered in Karachi, according to a video of the cleric’s speech circulating online.
“The prime minister said such anti-Islam and blasphemous words that the Earth should have exploded,” he claimed, adding that Sharif “violated his oath, ideology of Pakistan, The Quran and Sunnah of Prophet. His speech is a dangerous attack on Islam.”
“We demand a public apology from the prime minister (for his anti-Islam speech),” the cleric said in the video.
It’s not clear when and where the cleric was speaking and who his audiences were. However, it could be categorised as a hate speech and attract action under the anti-terrorism laws.
The Pakistan government has not reacted to the cleric’s speech so far.
On March 14, Sharif had given a bold and inclusive message saying forced conversion and discrimination against minorities were not allowed in Islam and under the laws in Pakistan.
In his greetings to the minority Hindus, Sharif had also warned against destruction of the places of worship of other religions, describing them as “a crime in Islam”.
Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Pakistan and those accused of committing it have been targeted by extremists in the past. Former governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was killed by his police guard for criticising the blasphemy law introduced in 1980s by then military ruler Zia-ul Haq.
Analysts say the draconian law, under which an accused can be sentenced to death, is a powerful tool to muzzle criticism in Muslim-majority Pakistan.