The combined opposition in Senate on Tuesday staged a walkout in Senate after Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan said that religious sectarianism could not be equated with hard core proscribed organisations.
The interior minister briefed the House over the recent kidnapping of four human rights activists from Islamabad and other cities and said that their safe and speedy recovery is the top most priority of the government.
“From the day one soon we [PML-N] took over, I’ve made it crystal clear to all the concerned authorities in high-level meetings that no forced disappearance is acceptable…all-out efforts are being made to ensure the recovery of all the four activists,” he added.
He said that FIRs have been registered and senior police officials are constantly in touch with the family of Professor Salman Haider of Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi.
However, the minister was clueless about the whereabouts of the missing activists. Opposition Leader Aitzaz Ahsan said that the briefing by the interior minister, who spoke for about eight minutes on the issue, proved futile as there was nothing new in whatever he said in his speech.
Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani said that the minister is making efforts for the recovery of the missing activists and he will keep on updating the House on the issue on daily basis. Nisar also openly challenged his meeting with the leaders of the proscribed organisations and warned those making ‘foul language’ against him, saying they must not forget that meeting with proscribed organisations used to take place in the Presidency.
In an obvious reference to former President Asif Ali Zardari, he said that these very leaders of the proscribed organisations used to hold meetings in the Presidency and also contested elections, adding if anybody had any objection, he/she can see their photographs with the former president.
However, when Nisar said that people involved in sectarianism could not be equated with hardcore terrorists, it paved the way for opposition’s walkout in protest against his remarks, saying the sectarian elements are equally condemned. The interior minister quickly clarified by saying he never meant that sectarianism is justified but it is a fact that Shia-Sunni killings have been taking place for the last 1,350 years, which must not be compared with the present day terrorism.
“It is definitely wrong and we must not allow this but you can’t equate sectarianism with terrorist organisations…when you’ve no logic, you opted to stage a walkout, but do embarrass in your hearts if you can’t afford to be embarrassed in the House,” he remarked about the protesting MPs.
The protesting senators refused to come back to the House despite repeated requests by leader of the house and other treasury members till adjournment of Tuesday proceedings.
The interior minister regretted the undue criticism over his performance by the senators, saying the lawmakers must not “bury their heads in the sand, as we also know what the previous government did to curb the menace of terrorism.” “I’m often on the hit lists of some people for some political point-scoring, which I don’t respond most of the time, but I’ve absolutely very good working relationship with the provincial governments of Sindh as well as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” he added.
Referring to a statement by PPP Senator Taj Haider who had said the federal government should pull the provincial governments up if they failed to prevent a terror incident despite intelligence sharing, Nisar said that the provincial governments have no such power to take such action.
He also recalled the high-level security meetings both by the interior ministry as well as the Prime Minister House to chalk out a strategy to curb the menace of terrorism, which according to him, were over 150, while the previous regime of PPP held only eight meetings in its five-year term.
He also said that the PPP could not be in a position as then policies were used to be framed somewhere else, but the incumbent government makes its own policy in the Parliament and then takes action accordingly, which is reflective of the success in the ongoing war against terrorism and militancy.
“Now the whole world looks towards Pakistan the way it coped with the menace of terrorism…there’s been a significant decrease in bomb blasts in the country as compared to what the nation witnessed when PPP was in power, but even then I attribute this success to all political parties,” he added.
Interestingly the opposition, especially Opposition Leader in Senate Aitzaz Ahsan who is thought to be the arch rival of Chaudhary Nisar, kept listening to the speech without any interruption.
The interior minister also indirectly lauded his arch rival Aitzaz who had said that Chaudhary Nisar had all the right to defend himself before a court of law to clarify his position what has been said about him in Justice Faez Isa Commission report on Balochistan.
Aitzaz said that he had no objection over his right to defend himself in the court, and the only objection he had made was tenor of the minister, which was quite aggressive.
Nisar showered praise on Senate chairman amid desk thumping by treasury senators, saying it is Rabbani who put the Senate of Pakistan on right track.
If treasury benches start thumping desks for the chair, who is though impartial yet belongs to another party, it means the man sitting there truly deserves the prestigious chair of the chairman Senate, he added.