Punjab Governor Salman Taseer has said that the ‘Punjabi Taliban’ exist in the province, but the government shies away from acknowledging the fact.
In an interview with BBC Urdu Service, he said militants of a banned outfit, who hail from Rahim Yar Khan and Muzaffargarh, are involved in the gruesome attack on the Ahmadis. “They are Punjabis,” he stressed, and with a tinge of sarcasm added that just as a newly-wed, bashful bride avoids naming her husband, the PML-N’s Punjab government is also being bashful about naming the Punjabi Taliban.
He said the extremists lack public support and people in fact hate them. “In Punjab Assembly, there are 371 seats but religious organisations won only two of them. They, too, are not extremists,” he said.
Criticising Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif and Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, he said they launched the ‘Sasti Roti’ scheme “to earn cheap publicity” and spent billions on tandoors in a few cities.
He said in Lahore per capita development expenditure comes to Rs30,000 while in other districts it amounts to Rs300-400. This discriminatory policy is causing a sense of deprivation among residents of South Punjab.
He said the chief minister has established seven ‘camp offices’ and millions are being spent on Raiwand Estate and his personal residences in Model Town from the public purse. The road leading to Raiwand cost the exchequer Rs18 billion.
Taseer said he was Punjab’s governor but used his own residence and car.
When asked why he desired to get a Rs25 million car imported, he said “I have a Mercedes car and I drive it myself. My companies have assets worth billions of dollars, so I don’t need to import a car on state expense. I was only requisitioning the car for the Governor House because heads of state come calling.”
“Should I take them to places in a rickshaw?” he asked.
When reminded that he was a billionaire and kept setting up new companies, then why was he not paying his newspaper employees their salaries, he said one needs to “conduct himself discreetly in business.” Maybe there were some delays, but the matter was being given political colour, he added.
When asked why he, compared to other provinces’ governors, was acting as a political and pro-active governor, and meddling in government affairs, he said there was nothing wrong in being a political governor. “There have been governors who committed deeds that should put to shame political figures. Just call to mind General Gilani…the governors had been dissolving assemblies in the past while we want to see democracy flourish,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2010.