Give Pak PM time to carry out economic, electoral reforms, says Bilawal
Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari

IslamabadPakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, in a telephone call, apprised President of UN General Assembly Abdulla Shahid of the controversial remarks made by two former senior officials of India’s ruling party against Prophet Mohammad, the Foreign Office said here on Friday.

Noting that such provocation had deeply hurt the sentiments of billions of Muslims around the world, Zardari urged Shahid to take cognisance of this abhorrent development amidst rising Islamophobia in India, it said.

Referring to the muted response of the Indian leadership to the incident, the foreign minister noted that silence could be taken as complicity, and could lead to further incitement to violence, communal discord and hate incidents, the Foreign Office said.

The UNGA president underscored the important role of the General Assembly and the need for the membership to work together on these issues. Zardari and Shahid agreed to remain engaged.

The ruling BJP has already suspended its national spokesperson Nupur Sharma and expelled the party’s Delhi unit media head Naveen Jindal for their controversial remarks following widespread anger in several Gulf countries.

India has said that the remarks do not reflect the views of the government.

Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had said India accords the “highest respect” to all religions.

Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmed, at the weekly briefing on Friday, reiterated Pakistan’s condemnation of the remarks by two senior officials.

He said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and the Foreign Minister have also condemned the hurtful comments.

Ahmed said Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood met the envoys of P-5 countries and held a meeting with the OIC Ambassadors in Islamabad to apprise them of the matter and register Pakistan’s strong concern at the sharp increase in Islamophobia and targeting of Muslims in India.

The spokesperson said that contrary to what he called a reprehensible campaign of saffronisation in India, Pakistan, in line with its policy of promoting interfaith harmony, issued 163 visas to Sikh pilgrims from India to participate in an annual festival being held in Pakistan from June 8 to June 17.

India has categorically rejected criticism by the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif over the issue.

MEA Spokesperson Bagchi said India accords the “highest respect” to all religions and described the statement by the grouping as “motivated, misleading and mischievous” and that it exposed its “divisive agenda” which is being pursued at the behest of “vested interests”.

Referring to Sharif’s condemnation of the remarks by Sharma and Jindal, and the Pakistan Foreign Ministry’s criticism, Bagchi said the “absurdity of a serial violator of minority rights commenting on the treatment of minorities in another nation is not lost on anyone”.

He said the government “accords the highest respect to all religions. This is quite unlike Pakistan where fanatics are eulogised and monuments built in their honour”.

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