Pervez Khattak’s comments
criticised as provocation
and justification of murder


ISLAMABAD: The comments by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak at Sialkot gruesome incident were widely criticised and condemned and termed them as provocation. He has suggested that the ghastly lynching of a Sri Lankan man at the hands of a mob in Sialkot should not be linked to the government’s decision to lift the ban on the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), saying even “murders take place” when young people get emotional.

The minister’s remarks come amid countrywide outrage after a mob comprising hundreds of protestors tortured to death Sri Lankan factory manager Priyantha Kumara over blasphemy allegations and then burnt his body on Friday.

The TLP was linked to the gory incident by users on social media, but the group distanced itself from the lynching and condemned it.

Defence Minister Pervez Khattak

At a media talk in Peshawar on Sunday, a reporter said that the Sialkot killing had taken place after the government lifted the ban on the TLP, and asked Khattak whether the government was considering an “effective crackdown” against such groups to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Responding to him, the minister said the two issues shouldn’t be linked.

“You know the reasons [behind this incident] too. When children … grow up, they become spirited and do things out of emotions. This does not mean ‘this was the result of that action’,” he stressed, saying in Sialkot too some young men had gathered and accused Kumara of disrespecting Islam, which led to the “sudden” lynching.

Khattak said he too could do something wrong in a state of heightened emotions, and added that such incidents did not mean “Pakistan is going towards destruction.”

Countering, the reporter asked the minister whether he was attributing the murders of nine policemen allegedly by TLP protesters as well as that of Kumara to “emotions”.

Khattak stuck to his argument, saying boys entering adulthood are “ready to do anything” and learn with age how to control their emotions. “So this happens among kids, fights take place and even murders. [Does] this mean it is the government’s fault?”

The minister then shifted the blame onto the media, saying it “puts the onus for everything on the government”.

“Why don’t you change this mindset? Your anchors should come on TV and make the children understand their religion. You only take advertisements and earn money,” he added.

The TLP and the federal government had reached an agreement on October 31 after many rounds of talks and two weeks of clashes which left seven policemen and a number of TLP workers dead. The agreement was kept secret, but leaked information suggested consensus on removing the party from the list of banned organisations, release of TLP chief Saad Hussain Rizvi and setting TLP workers free that were held under various charges including anti-terrorism.

A week later, on November 7, the federal cabinet decided to revoke the declaration putting the TLP on the list of “proscribed” organisations under the country’s anti-terrorism law.

Fawad Choudhary

The defence minister’s comments stand in contrast to the views expressed by another key member of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cabinet, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, who appeared to criticise his government’s handling of the crisis that emerged from the violent TLP protests in Punjab in October.

Meanwhile, Fawad Chaudhry has criticised PTI Senator Ejaz Ahmed Chaudhry’s move of meeting and presenting flowers to Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Saad Hussain Rizvi following the latter’s release from jail in November as “absurd”.

Fawad’s remark came while he was speaking on Aaj News programme Rubaroo on Saturday about the lynching of Sri Lankan factory manager Priyantha Kumara in Sialkot over blasphemy allegations a day earlier.

The TLP was linked to the gory incident by users on social media, but the group distanced itself from the lynching and condemned it.

When asked about some government leaders embracing the TLP despite its violent protests in October leaving a number of policemen martyred in Punjab, Fawad singularly criticised Ejaz. “I think the manner in which Ejaz Chaudhry sahib [met] the TLP [leadership] was an absurd act. Why didn’t [he] visit the homes of the policemen who were martyred?”

Senator Ejaz had met TLP chief Rizvi last month as a “gesture of goodwill” and to congratulate him on his release from jail. Pictures of Ejaz hugging and presenting a bouquet to Rizvi were widely shared on social media.