ISLAMABAD: A key government minister on Sunday admitted on the floor of the National Assembly that the state had failed in the protection of minorities in Pakistan as the lower house of the parliament passed a resolution condemning the recent incidents of mob lynching in various parts of the country with a majority vote amid surprise opposition by the members belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

“Minorities are being murdered daily ….. no religious minority is safe in Pakistan. Even the smaller sects of the Muslims are not safe,” declared Defence Minister Khawaja Asif amidst vociferous sloganeering by the opposition PTI members, who had actually been protesting against the government’s announcement to launch a fresh military operation against terrorists in the country.

The minister, who was given the floor by Deputy Speaker Ghulam Mustafa Shah to make a policy statement halting the budget debate, castigated the protesting opposition members, stating that he wanted to speak on an important and very sensitive matter because of which Pakistan was facing embarrassment at the international level, but these PTI members were not ready to hear him.

The firebrand minister said they wanted to bring a resolution in the house in support of the minorities which had equal constitutional rights with the Muslims in this country and there should be a national consensus on this issue.

NA passes resolution condemning recent mob lynching incidents amid surprise opposition by PTI

“Our Constitution provides protection to the minorities, but practically we are seeing them being murdered in Swat, Sargodha and Faisalabad. This is a matter of concern and embarrassment [for the nation],” said the minister.

On June 20, a resident of Sialkot was lynched by a mob inside the Madyan police station in Swat.

He had been detained for alleged desecration of the holy Quran. The mob not only killed the man but also set his body, the police station and an official vehicle on fire.

Khawaja Asif said Islam did not allow the killing of the people in the name of religion. He regretted that charges of blasphemy had not been proved against all those people who were killed after being accused of committing blasphemy, adding that the people were exploiting religious sentiments for personal disputes.

“We must ensure the safety of our minority brothers and sisters. They have as much right to live in this country as the majority. Pakistan belongs to all Pakistanis, regardless of whether they are Muslim, Christian, Sikh, or of any other faith. Our Constitution guarantees full protection to minorities,” he added.

“We want to send a message [to the world] that the National Assembly is united on the issue,” he said.

However, due to a strong protest by the PTI members, the government failed to table the resolution and the deputy speaker suspended the proceedings for lunch and prayers.

Later, when the house resumed proceedings, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar read out the resolution emphasising that “the right to life is the most cherished right enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan”.

“This House takes serious notice of the recent mob lynching of our citizens accused of offences in Swat and Sargodha. It is noted that such incidents have recently increased in different parts of the country,” says the resolution, urging the federal and provincial governments “to ensure the safety and security of all citizens, including religious minorities and other vulnerable segments of society”.

Through the resolution, the National Assembly specifically called for “the provincial governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab to take immediate and necessary measures to identify, investigate and prosecute those involved in these incidents under the relevant laws.”

“Furthermore, the House expressed the expectation that the courts would ensure immediate and speedy justice in these cases, underscoring the need for swift legal action to prevent future occurrences of such tragic events,” the resolution concluded.

The protesting opposition members shouted “no” when the deputy speaker put the resolution for a voice vote.

The law minister regretted the attitude of the opposition and asked them not to do politics on each and every issue. He challenged them to prove anything wrong in the text of the resolution which, he said, had also been shared with PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar Ali Khan and MNA Shandana Gulzar.

Mr Tarar said demanding the release of their party’s founding chairman, Imran Khan, was the PTI members’ right, but if they wanted to put the name of Imran Khan in every resolution then it was not possible.

Responding to the law minister’s remarks, Barrister Gohar Ali Khan tried to explain the reasons for his party’s act of opposing the resolution.

Mr Khan said he had drawn the attention of the law minister towards some websites containing blasphemous matter and had asked him to take the responsibility of handling the blasphemy cases from the provinces as ultimately the federal institutions, like the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), later became part of the investigations after registration of cases by the provincial governments.

The PTI chairman said the house had passed a resolution expressing concerns over the lynching of an individual, but it should also state that “there should be no lynching [of a party] by an institution”.

He said he had requested the minister to delay the presentation of the resolution till the arrival of all his party members in the house who had earlier staged a token walkout from the assembly over the government’s decision to launch fresh military operation against terrorists in the country.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2024

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