Punjab Information and Culture Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan on Tuesday resigned from his ministry amid intense criticism over his derogatory remarks directed against the Hindu community, the spokesperson for Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has confirmed.
Dr Shahbaz Gill, the chief minister's spokesperson, told DawnNewsTV that Chohan tendered his resignation and it was accepted by Buzdar.
While Gill said that Chohan had resigned, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, in a tweet, announced that he was "removed", adding that "bashing someone’s faith should not be a part of any narrative."
The firebrand PTI leader's resignation came following reports that Prime Minister Imran Khan had himself taken notice of his remarks, although those reports were denied by the party.
Chohan held a meeting with Buzdar later in the day, according to Gill. Following the meeting, Chohan said that he was neither asked for nor has he resigned. However, the veracity of his denials was called into question later in the day when Gill confirmed that Chohan had indeed tendered his resignation.
Speaking on DawnNewsTV show News Wise in the evening, Gill said Chohan would be replaced by PTI MPA Syed Sumsam Ali Bokhari. He will take oath as the provincial information minister in a day or two, the spokesperson added.
Chohan, known for his tub-thumping manner of speech, was addressing an event in Lahore on February 24 when responding to India's rhetoric in the aftermath of the Pulwama bombing, he conflated Indians with Hindus and used disparaging words for the religious community.
As a video clip of the derisive remarks went viral on Monday, Twitterati on Tuesday using the hashtag '#SackFayazChohan' asked the government to take action against Chohan and remove him from his post.
Prime Minister's Special Assistant on Political Affairs Naeemul Haque in a tweet had said that PTI would not "tolerate this nonsense", adding that action would be taken against the minister after consultation with Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar.
"PTI govt will not tolerate this nonsense from a senior member of the govt or from anyone," he wrote.
Editorial: Anti-culture minister
"Pakistan proudly owns the white in the flag as much as the green, values contributions of the Hindu community and honours them as our own," wrote Dr Mohammad Faisal, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on Tuesday.
Minister of State for Overseas Pakistanis Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari distanced Prime Minister Imran Khan from Chohan's "personal opinion", which he called "appalling and embarrassing stance against minorities".
According to Geo.tv, the Punjab minister today apologised for his comments, saying: "I was addressing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Indian armed forces and their media, not the Hindu community in Pakistan. I apologise if my remarks hurt the Hindu community in Pakistan. My remarks were in no way directed at Pakistan's Hindu community."
'Cannot condone bigotry'
Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari on Monday was unequivocal in her condemnation of her fellow PTI member's remarks.
"No one has the right to attack anyone else's religion. Our Hindu citizens have given sacrifices for their country," she wrote, reiterating Prime Minister Imran Khan's message of tolerance and respect. "We cannot condone any form of bigotry or spread of religious hatred."
Finance Minister Asad Umar reminded Chohan that the flag of Pakistan was not entirely green and that it is "not complete without the white which represents the minorities".
"Hindus of Pakistan are as much a part of the fabric of the nation as I am."
Pakistani human rights activist Kapil Dev, too, reminded the Punjab minister that were millions of Hindus living in Pakistan and even Chohan's own party had Hindu lawmakers.
This is not the first time that Chohan attracted bad press; last year in August, people from all walks of life chided the minister for his below-the-belt remarks against film and theatre actors.
The same day, the minister — known for using hard language and calling names of his opponents on TV talk shows — attracted criticism for using abusive language against the team of a private TV channel for running the clips of his old statement against railways minister Sheikh Rashid. While removing mikes, Chohan uttered four letter words against the media team. This was captured on a mobile phone and its footage went viral causing embarrassment to the PTI’s newly installed government in the centre and Punjab.
Then in October, Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan Ali Amin Gandapur had condemned the controversial remarks made by Chohan, assuring that the PTI would take action in this regard.
Chohan, while talking to reporters in Lahore, had repeatedly used the word “Kashmiri” with the names of Sharif family members, reportedly in a scornful way, which stirred up widespread outrage among the Kashmiri people.
The video clip of the said press talk went viral on social networking sites, mostly with tempestuous comments against the minister for making the “racial slur”.
Subsequently, Chohan said he was sorry if his statement had hurt the sentiments of the Kashmiri people.