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LAHORE: Punjab Minister for Information and Culture Fayyaz Chohan on Tuesday resigned from his post a few days after his remarks against the Hindu community generated controversy.

Dr Shahbaz Gill, spokesman for Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, confirmed to Dawn that Mr Chohan had tendered his resignation.

Asked whether he had quit or was told to resign, Mr Gill said: “Our position is that he has resigned; it has been accepted by the chief minister and sent to the governor.”

Mr Chohan also said that he had resigned, though he had initially, in the morning, denied this.

However, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Naeemul Haq, who had hinted at action through a tweet on Monday, said on Tuesday that Prime Minister Imran Khan had taken notice of the speech Mr Chohan delivered and instructed him to resign. Reportedly, the [now] former minister held a meeting with the chief minister and tendered his resignation, which was accepted immediately and sent to the governor.

PTI leaders take to social media to heap scorn on Punjab minister over anti-Hindu remarks

Since being inducted into the cabinet, the former minister has been mired in controversies over remarks considered indiscreet. A vocal critic of the opposition, he caused frustration even amongst PTI ministers such as Ali Amin Gandapur.

Mr Chohan has frequently locked horns with the media — later issuing an apology each time.

The latest controversy came on Monday when a Feb 24 speech went viral, in which — responding to recent Indian aggression — Mr Chohan belittled Hindus as a community, forgetting that Pakistan has four million Hindu citizens and they have been enthusiastic defenders of the country.

His words kicked up a storm on Twitter, with calls that he be sacked. The hashtag #SackFayazChohan assumed added weight when PTI leaders — Adviser to the Prime Minister Naeemul Haq, Federal Finance Minister Asad Umar and Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari — all took to the forum, condemning the remarks and endorsing the demand that he be removed from his position.

Ms Mazari wrote: “No one has the right to attack anyone else’s religion. Our Hindu citizens have given sacrifices for their country”. Reiterating Prime Minister Imran Khan’s promise to ensure respect and tolerance, she added: “We cannot condone any form of bigotry or spread of religious hatred.”

Mr Umar posted: “Hindus of Pakistan are as much a part of the fabric of the nation as I am. Remember the flag of Pakistan is not just green... it’s not complete without the white which represents the minorities. Quaid-i-Azam’s whole struggle was for a country free of discrimination.”

On his part, Mr Haq tweeted: “The derogatory and insulting remarks against the Hindu community by Fayyaz Chohan the Punjab information minister demand strict action. [The] PTI govt will not tolerate this nonsense from a senior member of the govt or from anyone. Action will be taken after consulting the chief minister.”

Mr Chohan tried to escape this tough spot on Tuesday morning when, according to Geo TV, he apologised for his comments. “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. My remarks were in no way directed at Pakistan’s Hindu community.”

But the die had already been cast as Prime Minister Khan had already decided to show him the door.

Published in Dawn, March 6th, 2019