PESHAWAR: Ethnic and linguistic considerations overshadowed proceedings of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Monday during a debate on the ongoing arrests and alleged victimisation of Pakhtuns in Punjab.

Lawmakers resorted to the use of provocative language, condemning the “racial” policies of the Punjab government and “victimisation” of Pakhtuns in the province. The assembly — through a unanimously adopted resolution — condemned the harassment and ethnic profiling of Pakhtuns in Punjab, Sindh and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. They called for release of the arrested people.

“This assembly asks the federal government to stop the governments of Punjab, Sindh and Azad Kashmir from (continuing) victimisation and unlawful detention of Pakhtuns,” the resolution, moved by Pakistan Peoples Party member Sahib­zada Sanaullah, said.

“People of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including businessmen, traders and daily wagers, have settled in Punjab and other areas (of the country). Unemployment and militancy have forced Pakhtuns to migrate to other provinces to earn a living, but they are being victimised,” said the resolution.

PTI, ANP, JUI-F, PML-N back resolution moved by PPP

It said that “ethnic profiling” of Pakhtuns in Punjab and other regions was a conspiracy that had caused resentment among Pakhtuns and could sow hatred among different ethnic groups. The resolution urged provincial governments to immediately release the arrested people and give up the “policy of victimisation”.

The house saw a heated debate on the alleged discriminatory treatment meted out to Pakhtuns in other provinces, particularly Punjab.

Speaker Asad Qaisar admitted an adjournment motion tabled by Awami National Party (ANP) lawmaker Sardar Hussain Babak for a discussion on the subject.

During the debate, legislators belonging to the ANP and the PPP poured scorn on the government of Punjab.

“If the Punjab government does not stop victimisation of Pakhtuns, people in Peshawar, Mardan and Charsadda have the right to expel Punjabi-speaking people from KP,” Mr Babak threatened.

Terming Punjab the hub of terrorism, he alleged that “master trainers” of suicide bombers and terrorists belonged to the province, but police were instead targeting Pakhtuns settled in Lahore and other cities.

Mr Babak claimed that there were seven terrorist hideouts in Lahore and 18 in Multan.

Turning to the matter of border closure, he said it was ironic that the Wagah border was never closed even in the face of shelling by Indian troops along the Line of Control, but the border with Afghanistan was closed after the recent terror attacks.

Opposition leader Maulana Lutfur Rehman accused the Punjab government of harassing Pakhtuns under the garb of operation against militants. He suggested that the assembly give a strike call to register its anger over the agony Pakhtuns were being subjected to in Punjab.

Nighat Orakzai of the PPP said the Punjab government had started “targeting Pakhtuns” to divert attention from Operation Raddul Fasaad. Security forces should continue the offensive till the elimination of “breeding grounds of terrorists”, she added.

She accused the Sharif brothers of pursuing anti-Pakhtun policies.

Fakher Azam said the Punjab government was violating the constitution by arresting people on ethnic grounds. “Pakhtuns are being used as shield to protect Punjab.

“The rulers should not repeat the history of East Pakistan.”

Senior minister Inayatullah Khan said that action against Pakhtuns would harm the spirit binding the federation. “Hotels in Punjab have received instructions not to provide accommodation to Pakhtuns and national identity cards of thousands of Pakhtuns have been blocked in the province,” Mr Inayatullah lamented.

Rashad Khan and Raja Faisal Zaman of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz also condemned victimisation of KP people in Punjab and suggested that a parliamentary delegation be sent to Lahore to take up the matter with Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

Minister Shah Farman accused the Sharif family of playing “the politics of divide and rule” to protect its interests.

“This is not an issue between Punjabis and Pakhtuns. It is an issue between the Nawaz group and the Pakhtun.”

He said there were signs that some foreign powers were trying to engineer a “Yugoslavia- like situation” in the country.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2017