Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah on Tuesday said Pakhtuns had the complete right to reside in Punjab, and the allegations being raised in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Sindh of their victimisation were only attempts to "spread hatred".
He was speaking to reporters following a meeting between Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and a delegation from the Pakhtun community led by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Amir Muqam.
"Pakhtuns living in Punjab are our brothers," he quoted the chief minister as saying. "They have the same right to live and conduct business in Punjab as anyone else".
He also said Pakistanis all over the country have to combat terrorism together, regretting that the common man sometimes had to face problems during search operations.
The minister said efforts will also be made to accommodate some suggestions made by Muqam, which include the consideration of the "protection of the four walls of houses" and "people's dignity" during search operations.
"It is highly condemnable that some so-called political parties and leaders in Sindh and KP are scoring political points on the matter ... they want to gain people's sympathies by spreading fear in them," he said. "This is enmity against the country."
KP lawmakers on Monday had condemned the “racial” policies of the Punjab government and the “victimisation” of Pakhtuns in Punjab. Their provincial assembly — through a unanimously adopted resolution — had condemned the harassment and ethnic profiling of Pakhtuns in Punjab, Sindh and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
They had also called for the release of individuals arrested during the ongoing crackdown.
“The people of KP, 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.
The resolution followed a province-wide crackdown launched by Punjab’s law enforcement agencies following a suicide attack on Lahore's Mall Road on Feb 13.
Days after the attack, the Provincial Intelligence Centre of the Punjab Home Department had issued a letter directing police high-ups to tighten security in different cities of the province.
"Combing operations [must] be conducted in all targeted areas, particularly where the Afghan/Pathan community is residing," the letter had read.
Last week, police in the Rawalpindi division also began surveillance of people belonging to Fata and considered issuing them chip-based national identity cards with added security features.
Why should terrorism be associated with one ethnicity: Khursheed Shah
Addressing media regarding his reservations about Raddul Fasad, Leader of the Opposition Khursheed Shah said, “The new army chief has started operation Raddul Fasaad, which is a continuation of operation Zarb-e-Azb, this would only increase fasaad in the country, it will only end up increasing inter-province hatred in the country.”
“Openly discriminating against Pakhtuns could lead to chaos and aid outside forces in making the situation even worse. This is a very dangerous game that Nawaz Sharif should be wary of,” Shah added, saying that he would protest this discrimination against any one ethnicity.
“It has been admitted already that the Punjabi Taliban have had the biggest role in terrorism in the country,” Shah said, adding that the fact that an operation was never carried out in Punjab only helped terror outfits as it allowed for the spread of terror 'nurseries' in the region.
“In this scenario, should we start saying that only Punjabis are involved in terrorism and people should remain on guard against them, like people openly say it about Pakhtuns?" he asked.
He added that Pakhtuns are a patriotic nation and "all Pakhtuns should not be discriminated against based on some that are involved in terrorist activities."
“We understand that it is a sensitive issue, but I protest this operation,” Shah concluded.