PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal decries Swat mob lynching, demands committee to probe vigilantism

Published June 22, 2024
Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal gestures during his speech in the National Assembly on Saturday.—Screengrab from DawnNewsTV
Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal gestures during his speech in the National Assembly on Saturday.—Screengrab from DawnNewsTV

Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Saturday condemned the lynching of a man in Swat, lamenting how religion is being weaponised to justify “street justice” and “vigilantism”.

A man was killed by a mob over alleged desecration of the Holy Quran in the Madyan area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Swat district on Thursday night. Eight people were injured in the unrest.

The police had moved the suspect of the alleged desecration incident to the police station, a police official said, but a charged mob attacked the police station and took the suspect away.

“People set fire to the police station and a mobile vehicle,” the DPO said, adding that the suspect was “torched”. Videos making the rounds on social media showed a mob circling a body on fire in the middle of the road, as well as people gathered in huge numbers outside a police station.

Addressing the incident during the budget debate in the National Assembly (NA) today amid interruptions by Deputy Speaker Ghulam Mustafa Shah, Ahsan said Parliament had to take stern notice of “mob justice”, as it had brought Pakistan “to the brink of destruction”.

“Another mob lynching has happened in Swat and Pakistan is under scrutiny for it,” he said.

“If this was an isolated incident we could move past it, but similar incidents have happened in Sialkot, Jaranwala and Sargodha,” he added, referring to incidents where those accused of desecration were lynched by vigilante mobs.

The minister also referred to an attempt on his life in 2018, where he was shot by a supporter of the religio-political party Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan. “I am grateful that I got a new lease on life after an extremist shot me,” he said. “Even now the bullet is in my body.”

“We must take notice of this incident as our nation is on the brink. We have now reached a point where we are using religion to justify mob violence and street justice, flagrantly violating the Constitution, the law and the state,” he lamented.

He added that in Islam, “even the bodies of heretics must be shown respect”, further stating that it is forbidden to burn bodies. “Not only are mobs killing people, but they are setting the bodies on fire and making a spectacle out of it. It’s shameful.

“What are we showing the world with this?” he asked as the deputy speaker tried to cut him off. Despite the interruptions he continued, saying: “We need to think about where we stand in the world […] we are a backwards country. If we do not take notice of this, we will fall into anarchy.”

Ahsan concluded his address by demanding that a committee be formed to probe these incidents. “It is the ulema’s responsibility to understand how religion has been weaponised to justify mob violence. There must be a committee in place to tackle these incidents so we can be a civilised country.”

Deputy Speaker Shah said that as a member of the cabinet, Ahsan should confer with Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi and work with him to form the committee. “You should coordinate with your colleague and bring these issues to the [Khyber Pakhtunkhwa] chief minister,” he said.

“Please bring this up at cabinet and not here,” he added.

NA speaker suspends Masti Khel membership for current session

NA Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq also suspended the membership of Sunni Ittehad Council MNA Muhammad Sanaullah Khan Masti Khel for the current session due to his use of highly objectionable indecent language during the budget speech.

The house adopted a motion introduced by the speaker regarding the suspension of the member. The motion said the MNA expressed “objectionable and indecent” remarks during the budget speech.

The ruling said the MNA in his budget speech expressed highly objectionable and indecent remarks, thereby eroding and lowering the sanctity of the house in violation of rule 30 of the Rules Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007.

Sadiq ordered that the MNA shall now forthwith withdraw from the precincts of the Assembly under rule 21 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of the Business in the National Assembly, 2007.

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