Bullet in body reminder of need to remove seeds of hatred, says Ahsan Iqbal

  • Interior minister says whoever discriminates on basis of religion negates ideology behind Pakistan’s creation

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister of Interior Ahsan Iqbal on Wednesday said the bullet in his body is a constant reminder to remove the seeds of hatred sown in the country.

Speaking during a National Assembly session, the minister termed his assailant “a coward”.

“On May 6, a coward fanatic attempted to take my life but He [God] who is our protector is greater than the attacker,” he said. “I am standing here today, blessed with a new life and just as a Pakistani, not a minister or member of the parliament, I want to say that the bullet lodged in my body will remain there forever. It will keep reminding me of the impending need to remove the seeds of hatred sowed in the country.”

“We have spread the narrative of hatred in politics,” Iqbal observed.

Expressing the hope that political parties would unite against extremism, he said that “increasing hatred and extremism are major threats to the country’s peace”.

“No society can go forward and progress with such kind of mindset,” the minister added.

He particularly urged religious leaders to play a role to ensure elimination of religious extremism, saying that no individual or group had the right to punish anybody when state institutions like parliament and judicial system were there.

The minister said individuals and groups have no right to issue decrees of killing on the basis of religion, saying that “who is Muslim and who is non-Muslim, the constitution of the country decides, the parliament decides, we cannot issue decrees in streets on it”.

“No individual has this right to kill anybody with his own caprice of mind that he/she should be killed. This is anarchy,” he said.

He categorically rejected division on the basis of race, religion and colour, saying that whosoever holds the Pakistani identity card, should be respected and loved without any prejudice. He said that prejudice against Muslims in India was the reason behind the creation of Pakistan and that was why Muslims demanded their homeland where they were not subjected to such prejudice. If any group in Pakistan was subjected to the same prejudice, this would be a negation of basic ideology of creation of Pakistan, he remarked.

Earlier, the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) leader appreciated Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for lending support to his family during the tough time.

“I cannot forget how Bilawal Bhutto stood united with my family, his eyes were moist [when he denounced the attack.]”

The interior minister also expressed his gratitude for PTI Chairman Imran Khan for having sent a bouquet while he was in the hospital, however, he expressed his discontentment at the individuals chosen by the latter to inquire about his health.

“I am grateful that Imran sent a bouquet but I would have been happier if the bouquet was delivered to me by Shafqat Mehmood, Shireen Mazari, Asad Umer, Arif Alvi or some other friend.”

“Unfortunately the people who you [Imran] sent with the bouquet were later defending the assassin on a television show, saying that he did the right thing which is regrettable,” remarked Iqbal.

An assailant had shot at Iqbal, earlier this month, during a rally in the latter’s constituency Narowal. The minister underwent two operations — one aimed at removing the bullet from Iqbal’s lower torso and the other to mend his broken elbow bone. Iqbal had sustained a fracture after the bullet scraped his elbow and then hit his lower abdomen.

However, the bullet that entered Iqbal’s abdomen — specifically, the lower part of his stomach — was not removed, as per the doctors’ decision, for it was not harmful to him anymore and pulling it out at present could have proved to be risky.

An initial investigation report on the failed assassination attempt suggested that the main accused, Abid Hussain, 21, planned the attack on the interior minister with careful deliberation.

According to the report, Abid had told police that he had a dream in which he was ordered to assassinate Ahsan Iqbal. He wrote down his thoughts in a diary over the past three or four months.