Muslims in Pakistan have held rallies to observe a Quran Sanctity Day after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called for protests over last week’s burning of the Muslim holy book in Stockholm.
The biggest rallies took place in the country’s main cities of Karachi and Lahore after Friday prayers.
In the capital Islamabad, lawyers holding copies of the Quran protested in front of the Supreme Court while worshippers outside mosques held small rallies, demanding the severing of diplomatic ties with Sweden.
A group of minority Christians in the northwest also held a rally to denounce the burning of the holy book.
Anger has grown in Muslim countries since last Wednesday when a man identified in Swedish media as a Christian from Iraq burned the Quran outside a mosque in Stockholm during the religious holiday of Eid al-Adha.
In a televised speech to legislators in parliament on Thursday, Sharif questioned why the police in Sweden let the burning of the Quran go ahead.
The parliament also adopted a unanimous resolution urging Sweden to take “appropriate steps” against the perpetrators involved in the desecration.
On Friday, the Pakistani leader took to Twitter, urging his compatriots to observe a “Youm-e-Taqaddus-e-Quran”, or Quran Sanctity Day, to send a strong message to Sweden.
“When it comes to the Quran, the nation is one,” he wrote. “We will all protest nationwide today under the title of Quran Sanctity Day and after Friday prayers.”
A similar call for protests was also issued by Imran Khan, the former premier who was replaced by Sharif in April 2022 after his ouster through a motion of no-confidence in parliament.
The followers of Khan, Sharif and other leaders held separate rallies across the nation, local reports said.
The Swedish government on July 2 condemned the burning of a Quran, calling it an “Islamophobic” act.
A majority of Swedish people also supported a ban on public burning of religious texts such as the Quran or the Bible, according to a survey earlier this week.
The United Nations Human Rights Council is also expected to hold an urgent meeting on July 11 over the “alarming rise in premeditated and public acts of religious hatred”.