ISLAMABAD, May 3 Awami National Party (ANP) leader Afzal Khan Lala revealed Sunday that public flogging of the unfortunate Swati girl did take place, but he differed substantially from the hitherto reported version of the event.

Khan Lala was speaking at a news conference at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in Islamabad.

He said a boy, who had joined the Taliban, had a liking for the girl but the marriage proposal was refused by the family. One day an electrician was called to repair an electric glitch in the girl's house, and the boy rushed to the Taliban with an accusation that a Na Mahrem (outsider) had entered the house which was followed by the flogging of the girl.

Khan Lala said an injustice had been perpetrated by this hideous act.

At the same time he accused newspaper columnists and TV commentators of vacillating on this issue, because Taliban spokesman had confirmed the incident twice, and twice changed the place where the incident took place.

Khan Lala's revelation followed a question raised by social activist Tahira Abdullah, who wanted his agreement to introduce a resolution condemning the fatwa annulling the marriage of Samar Minallah, who had provided the video and the media had publicised it. Ms Minallah was also under death threat.

Khan Lala not only endorsed the resolution but amended it by saying that ANP leaders Afrasiab Khan Khattak and NWFP Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain should tender public apology to Samar Minallah.

He added that Taliban should also be condemned for marking 48 Swati people for beheading and slaughter. His name was among the list of persons named for beheading.

The gathering at the HRCP adopted the amended resolution.

Khan Lala was given standing ovation when he arrived at the HRCP offices and applauded for his courage to stand up against the Taliban threat. His defiance had resulted in the slaughter of two of his grandsons, besides killing of his driver. He himself was shot at twice and he survived gunshots.

The former minister also touched on a number of current issues in the news conference. He refused to believe that the people of Swat attended the meeting addressed by Sufi Mohammad at Mingora two weeks ago.

“The people of Swat have taken shelter outside to escape threats, hardship and privation, which was still continuing. In these circumstances it was hard to believe that the attendees at that meeting consisted of the local gentries.”

Turning to the subject of Tehrik Nifaz Shariat-i-Muhammadi (TNSM) chief Sufi Mohammad declaring democracy anti-Islamic, Khan Lala said the TNSM chief had contested local elections and he had been brought into the fold by former interior minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao.

Khan Lala was quite candid in declaring that Taliban phenomenon was created inside Pakistan by former interior minister Maj-Gen Naseerullah Babar, and at the time of its creation, Pakistanis, Saudis, Afghanis, the United Arab Emirates were backing it.

Asked for suggesting the solution for restoring peace in Swat, he asked why we should divorce the situation of the area from the prevailing situation in the rest of the country. Were things in Karachi, any different, he questioned.

In his view the difficulty with Pakistan was that it had no committed leader.

“There has been no change of government in Pakistan, only faces of leaders had changed. It started with corruption which has now developed into plunder and loot of national resources. And this pernicious rot must stop now otherwise Pakistan is in danger.”

Khan Lala was equally averse to politicians changing parties. He repeated what he once said to an old colleague from Balochistan that it made politicians look like a vagrant, travelling from one place to another.

He did not agree that the army had failed in facing up to the Taliban, adding that “ours was a dedicated army, one of the finest in the world.” He also had a word of praise for Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani who, in his words, “was a committed soldier.”

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