ISLAMABAD: Despite political differences with mainstream opposition parties, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Sunday hailed the reaction of opposition parties to the lynching of Sri Lankan factory manager Priyantha Kumara in Sialkot and said the nation wanted to tackle extremism.
The minister criticised the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) leader Senator Ejaz Ahmed Chaudhry for presenting flowers to Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Saad Hussain Rizvi on his release from jail in November and termed his move “absurd”.
“The way Ahsan Iqbal and Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar responded to Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s statement reflects that the leaderships of all the political parties realise the severity of the situation and want to cope with [extremism],” the minister said in a joint press conference with Sports Minister Fehmida Mirza and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Youth Affairs, Usman Dar, in which they announced launching of what they called “the country’s biggest sports gala — Kamyab Jawan Sports Drive from Monday (today).
Terms PTI senator’s act of meeting TLP chief ‘absurd’
Maulana Rehman, who is chief of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) — a cluster of mainstream opposition parties bent upon toppling the government — had said in his statement on Tweeter that the government was responsible for the Sialkot-like incident. “If the state does not take action against the ones accused of blasphemy then such incidents will happen,” he said.
However, leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) denounced Maulana Rehman’s statement on the lynching.
Fawad Chaudhry said the Sialkot incident had bowed down the whole nation’s head, but he expressed satisfaction that the country which had passed through a long era of dictatorship, had a vibrant leadership in all political parties.
The minister said Pakistan was a progressive country with strong institutions and democratic values. “No country has witnessed restoration of democracy in the way as Pakistan after passing from long eras of dictatorship,” he added.
He said extremism was not the issue of any single party, but the concern of all parties as the political process and democracy could only flourish in the country when there was law and order.
About the mob lynching of the Sri Lankan factory manager, the minister said the way Pakistani nation has shown its reaction over this incident reflect that they were united in their stance against such extremist and heinous act and wanted to cope with it.
He said that was the second such incident after the attack on Army Public School on which the whole nation was grieved, ashamed and showed unity against extremism.
“The reaction of our nation shows that except [for a] few thousands or lakhs of such extremist people, majority of the people among 220 million populations are tolerant citizens and this is the ray of hope for us to move forward,” he said.
He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan conveyed his grief and pain over this sad incident while talking to the Sri Lankan President and also issued a message after the incident.
The minister said the crowd involved in this incident was between the ages of 15-25 and emphasised on engaging youth in constructive and healthy activities like sports.
The minister congratulated Usman Dar and Fehmida Mirza for the launch of this much needed sports drive.
Sports Minister Fehmida Mirza said she had received telephone calls of many families of overseas Pakistanis who wanted to extend financial assistant to the bereaved family of Priyantha Kumara.
Earlier, Fawad Chaudhry has criticised PTI Senator Ejaz Ahmed Chaudhry’s for presenting flowers to TLP chief Saad Hussain Rizvi on his release from jail in November and termed the senator’s action absurd.
Speaking at a private TV talk show on Saturday about the lynching of the Sri Lankan factory manager over blasphemy allegations, he said: “I think the manner in which Ejaz Chaudhry Sahib [met] the TLP [leadership] was an absurd act. Why didn’t [he] visit the homes of the policemen who were martyred,” he questioned?
The TLP was linked to the gory Sialkot incident by users on social media, but the group distanced itself from the lynching and condemned it.
Some government leaders had reportedly embraced the TLP despite its violent protests in October leaving a number of policemen martyred in Punjab.
Senator Ejaz had met TLP chief Rizvi last month as a “gesture of goodwill” and to congratulate him on his release from jail. Pictures of Senator Ejaz hugging and presenting a bouquet to Mr Rizvi were widely shared on social media.
The meeting had come after the TLP and the federal government reached an agreement on October 31 after many rounds of talks and two weeks of clashes which left seven policemen and a number of TLP workers dead. The agreement was kept secret, but leaked information suggested consensus on removing the party from the list of banned organisations, Rizvi’s release and setting TLP workers free that were held under various charges, including anti-terrorism.
A week later, on November 7, the federal cabinet decided to revoke the declaration putting the TLP on the list of “proscribed” organisations under the country’s anti-terrorism law.
Speaking about the Sialkot lynching, the minister said the issue of extremism had to be tackled by all stakeholders and emphasised that the country’s education system — especially from grades 6 to 13 — needed to undergo a review. He also attributed the failure in tackling the problem to widespread divisions among political parties.
Asked whether the Kumara’s ghastly murder would be the “turning point” in the Pakistan’s fight against extremism, the information minister said the problem would not end by simply hanging or imprisoning the culprits involved in the lynching.
Fawad Chaudhry acknowledged that the subject was quite “complex” and said the federal and the provincial governments will have to implement the code of conduct given in the National Action Plan and review the action plan to fill the gaps in its execution.
Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2021