Benazir demands Ijaz’s dismissal

Published June 21, 2007

ISLAMABAD, June 20: Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto has demanded dismissal of a federal minister who has justified ‘suicide attacks on a British citizen’ and called for investigating his links with suicide bombers.

In a statement released here on Wednesday, Ms Bhutto said “Minister Ijaz-ul-Haq, son of a military dictator known for patronising extremist groups, has done a great disservice to the image of Islam and Pakistan by calling for murder of foreign citizens”.

She said that while Muslims worldwide had been outraged by the British government’s decision to knight Salman Rushdie, Islam did not permit murder or suicide attacks on people with divergent views, no matter how abhorrent such views might be.

She said the PPP was also disturbed that sensitivity shown to other social groups was not being extended to Muslims and it would make its views known politically and peacefully.

She said Islam preached tolerance and taught: “You shall have your religion and I shall have mine”.

She noted that this was the second time that the minister had justified suicide killings. Mr Haq had appointed the Lal Masjid clerics under who were running the militant madressahs known as Jamia Hafsa and Jamia Fareedia, she said. The clerics had publicly stated that the madressah housed some suicide bombers. Given the statements of the minister justifying suicide attacks as well as his connection with the Lal Masjid, Ms Bhutto said, the regime of President Gen Pervez Musharraf should immediately sack him. Any inaction, she added, would be seen as a covert act to fuel extremism while preaching moderation.

She also noted that the press had levelled corruption allegations against the minister. She said it was essential to investigate the allegations to ascertain if acts of corruption had been committed and whether proceeds from such acts had been funnelled for fuelling terrorism through the patronage of Lal Masjid and its affiliated madressahs.

She said it was strange that the Musharraf regime had neither ordered an investigation into the outrageous remarks made by the minister nor taken any step to stop the Lal Masjid suicide bombers.

Ms Bhutto said she remained committed to democracy and rights of the people. “How can I waver when I have the support of my brothers and sisters, the workers and jiyalas who have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with me in facing tyranny,” she said in a message to party workers on the eve of her 54th birthday.

She called for immediate release of all political leaders and workers incarcerated for their political beliefs. “I think of all our leaders who have endured many a cold winter of exile. I call for their return to their homeland in safety and in dignity,” she said.

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