LAHORE: Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has said the government is preparing a strategy to tackle violent protests and hate speech on sensitive religious issues “without flexing state muscles”.
“The interior ministry has been given a task to devise a comprehensive strategy to ensure that no violent protests take place on roads and common people’s lives and properties are protected,” he told a news conference at PID office here on Monday.
Lauding opposition parties’ maturity in the wake of violent protests across the country following Aasia Bibi’s acquittal in a blasphemy case, Mr Chaudhry said the growing problem of violent protests on sensitive religious issues would be tackled as a part of national security in consultation with the opposition parties.
He said the federal and provincial governments were busy identifying miscreants who damaged public and private properties and injured people during the three-day countrywide protest last week.
Regretting that the miscreants under the garb of religion burnt private vehicles and even humiliated women, he said: “All provincial governments are required to compensate the damages caused to common people’s properties and physical injuries.” The Centre would also extend assistance to the provincial governments, he added.
TLP warns of retaliation over violation of agreement between the party and government
Acknowledging Facebook for blocking hundreds of accounts found spreading hate material, Mr Chaudhry stressed that social networking site Twitter should also consider the religious sensitivity and block posts fanning sectarianism in the country.
Referring to the Pak-China collaborative space programme, the minister came down hard on certain religious leaders, saying: “Those spreading religious extremism and anarchy in the country should be sent to space — for good.” In the same breath, he said some politicians also needed to be sent to space.
About checks on hate material on social networking sites, he made it clear that the government had no intention to block freedom of speech and said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government was accepting criticism wholeheartedly.
He said the opposition parties tried to make a hue and cry while alleging rigging in the general election but could not come up with any evidence. In order to satisfy the opposition, he said, the prime minister had constituted a committee and the voices of rigging allegations died down.
Responding to PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb’s comment that the PTI criticised the CPEC at home and applauded it in China, Mr Chaudhry said the PTI government was always for the corridor project and now working to expand it and explore more opportunities in the agriculture sector, establishment of industrial zones and creation of new jobs.
“Opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif in his speech in the National Assembly tried to create an impression that a case lodged against him may affect Pak-China relationship,” he said and added that countries’ relationships were based on strategic interests instead of personalities.
Mr Chaudhry said Pakistan’s relations were improving with China, Saudi Arabia, the UAE as well as the United States. Pakistan’s relationship with the European Union was also expanding, he said, adding that PM Khan was offering a quality leadership to resolve issues confronting the Ummah.
In reply to a question about financial crunch and lay-offs in the media, the minister said media organisations should redo their business model. He said the government’s share of advertisement to the media was just 20 per cent, compared to 80pc private sector advertisement. “The cuts from 20pc advertisement cannot be blamed for lay-offs in the media industry,” he added.
He said the country was facing financial challenges and the government could not offer advertisements worth billions of rupees. Assuring that he was standing by journalists’ bodies, the minister said the government was also ready to support the media industry on a short-term basis.
Reacting to the information minister’s anti-Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan assertions, the TLP leadership said they reserved the legal right to take Mr Chaudhry to court on the issue.
TLP patron-in-chief Pir Mohammad Afzal Qadri on Monday warned of retaliation if “violations of the agreement between the party and the government do not stop immediately”. In a video message, he said all those who had participated in negotiations and signed the agreement should stay warned that no violation (referring to registration of FIRs and arrests of workers) would be tolerated.
“The TLP will again be on the roads, with full zeal for martyrdom. The leadership and workers of the party are not afraid of anybody. All workers should start preparatory meetings as they can be told any moment to hit the roads. Ultimately, the truth will prevail,” Mr Qadri said.
Meanwhile, a late-night text message by the TLP claimed that they were in talks with a Punjab government team over the arrest of their workers.
Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2018