ISLAMABAD, Oct 10: There is a complete sectarian harmony in the country and the fresh wave of violence is the work of terrorists who are on the run and are trying to shatter peace, says federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shaikh Rashid Ahmed.

The minister said this during a press conference at the PTV Headquarters on Sunday. He said: "There is no Shia-Sunni conflict in the country. Sialkot and Multan would have been reduced to a cinder by now if there was any involvement of sectarian elements in the recent incidents."

Pakistan, he said, was playing a crucial role as a frontline state in the war on terrorism, adding that some elements did not want to see the country's image improving in the comity of nations and wanted to destabilise the country.

"They (terrorists) want to spoil our image in the war against terrorism," he said. The minister condemned the killing of Mufti Jameel in Karachi but appreciated the peaceful behaviour of his followers during and after the funeral prayers for the religious scholar.

Commenting on the involvement of foreign elements in the killing of Mufti Jameel, a supporter of the Taliban movement, the minister said that the government would soon uncover culprits involved murder of the religious scholar notwithstanding their nationalities.

Referring to the violence in Multan and Sialkot, he said that foreign or local, everyone involved in these incidents would soon be apprehended. He said that the government had made some progress so far as the terrorist incident in Sialkot was concerned, adding that it was not a major breakthrough.

The minister clarified that the government was not considering banning religious gatherings and said that it had banned only the activities of banned outfits which had reappeared under new names and were spreading sectarianism and inciting hatred.

"We cannot ban the Raiwind gathering or the post-Taravih sermons in Ramazan. The ban is against those who are spreading slogans like 'kill or be killed' using loudspeakers," he said.

Referring to the government's move to arrest Ulema belonging to various sects, he said these were "precautionary". Sheikh Rashid dismissed the fears of the potential fallout after the killing of 70 people as a result of violence in the past 10 days.

"Like Pakistan, many other countries are not as safe for investment as they were before the start of the war on terror, but foreign investment is being made there. Why single out Pakistan?" he said.

About the tabling of the government's draft bill in the National Assembly aimed at allowing President Pervez Musharraf to retain the army post, he said it was part of a democratic process and the opposition would be given an opportunity to debate the bill.

Pakistan Muslim League, he said, had moved the bill in the best national interest. The recent promotions in the army, he said, had been made on merit and would have "a wholesome effect" on the institution.

The media, he said, was free and 34 more private television channels would be launched during the next year, adding that 24 of these channels belonged to owners of newspapers.

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