- Info minister terms TLP protests ‘political stunt which has nothing to do with religion’
- Country facing ideological crisis, not administrative one, says Fawad
- PTI must get PAC chairmanship, info minister insists
LAHORE: Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Sunday urged religious leaders and civil society to take ownership of the fight against ‘extremist elements’ in order to “prevent the war between ideologies from falling into the hands of those who are doing no service” to Islam.
Addressing a seminar titled ‘Adam Bardasht Ka Rujhan Aur Riyasat ki Zummadariya’ (Tendency of intolerance and state’s responsibilities), organised here by the Pakistan Journalists Foundation (PJF), he said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government would extend support to all those ulema, mashaikh and religious leaders who advocate peace, tolerance and harmony in the society through logic and dialogue.
He said the PTI government would extend support to all those religious leaders who advocated peace, tolerance and harmony in the society.
For the first time in Pakistan, he said, a prime minister had talked about 2.5 million children of madrassas (religious seminaries) and thought of their well-being, besides bringing them into the national mainstream.
Fawad’s comments on TLP and the nationwide protests came two days after the address of Interior Minister Shehryar Afridi in Senate wherein he had stated the government would “embrace its own people and hold dialogue with them”. The minister had given a clean chit to Rizvi-led TLP and accused political parties of violence.
The protests, that had erupted across Pakistan in the immediate aftermath of Aasia’s acquittal, ended only after three days when government surrendered to the zealots’ demands. The protesters led Khadim Hussain Rizvi had threatened to kill the judges who were part of the bench that absolved Aasia and instigated rebellion within the army ranks against its chief of staff. However, TLP got off the hook with just a ‘simple apology’.
According to a report submitted by the Punjab government on Saturday, public and private property worth Rs260 million was damaged during the three-day protests by TLP activists. The protesters blocked multiple roads across Punjab and set fire to vehicles at certain locations.
Following the agreement, the government initiated a countrywide crackdown against those involved in vandalism and arson during the protests. Approximately 1,800 individuals were arrested and charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). However, the government later announced that it would not make any further arrests and even exonerated TLP from the violent incidents, with Islamabad deputy commissioner quashing cases against TLP local leadership.
However, the chief justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar, took notice of the vandalism during the protests and directed the federal and the provincial governments to submit a report on the destruction of public and private property during the protests.
Later on, addressing a press conference concerning the upcoming ‘Rehmatul-il-Alameen Conferences’, being held nationwide this month, the federal minister dubbed the anti-Aasia Bibi protests by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) a political stunt that had “nothing to do with religion”.
“Love for the Holy Prophet is the foundation of Islam; however, some of these groups are using the issue for political mileage,” the minister said as he termed the protests “devoid of logic”. He wondered why a “particular segment of society needs to use this issue for its politics” and does so by “bringing up a new issue every week”.
In an attempt to shift the blame onto other segments, he said that it was not a crisis of the government or the state, but a “societal and an ideological crisis”.
The religious circles, he said, should have rebelled against those who had created a chaotic situation in the country in the name of religion. But unfortunately, it did not happen due to the “negative impacts on people” emanating from the post-Afghan jihad crises, he added.
Stressing upon the role of civil society to counter extremist elements in the society, Fawad said the PTI government would fully support them in promoting the ‘true narrative’ of religion through peaceful and logical dialogue. In past, the civil society lacked support from the respective governments, which made the situation worse.
“The state’s failure was that it cannot safeguard those who had a counter-argument. One side had an argument and they also had weapons, while people on the other side were unarmed,” he recalled.
“It is the responsibility of the state to ensure the availability of an environment where everyone can present their arguments,” he said, adding that the government was holding ‘Rehmatul-il-Alameen Conference’ at a national level for the first time to portray the “soft image of Islam”. Prime Minister Imran Khan would inaugurate the event on November 20, he added.
‘SOME PEOPLE ARE USING RELIGION FOR POLITICAL GAINS’:
The minister also insisted that there was no administrative crisis in the country, adding that it was some elements that wanted to gain political gains in the name of religion.
Addressing a press conference here, he said that it was the responsibility of the people at the helm of state affairs to take ownership of ideological narrative. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government would move ahead in that regard, following the prime minister’s vision to make the country a Madina-like state, he added.
He said a state that does not protect the rights of minorities could not be one like the state of Madina. He said Pakistan would become a progressive and welfare country.
He said that the PTI must get the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) as it was illogical that the younger Sharif was assigned the task of conducting the audit of the projects carried out by his elder brother.
He said whenever corruption was brought under discussion in the parliament, the opposition disturbed the atmosphere. However, it would be an injustice to the voters if the PTI government did not take up the issue. Without holding the powerful accountable, justice could not be ensured in the country, he added.
Replying to a question, the minister said Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who remained head of the Kashmir committee for many years, had never protested about Indian atrocities against the people of held Kashmir. “All is well for the Maulana if he is in the government; and everything is bad for him if he is not part of the government,” he added.
The minister said the initial crisis, which the PTI government faced, was about the payment of loans. About 84 per cent of the total loans were acquired by the Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz governments, he said, adding that the country would not have needed to beg If the huge loans were recovered from the two parties.
To a query, he said the prime minister had given clear instructions that the anti-encroachment operation should not be carried out in slums and localities of the poor.