Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday condemned the “unjustified sloganeering” against Pakistan army at the Asma Jahangir Conference held in Lahore, saying it was unfortunate that such forums were being used to target the institutions.
The premier's condemnation has come after some people in the audience started shouting slogans against the army in the presence of key ministers, legal eagles and journalists on Sunday.
The prime minister said that the coalition government and his party were firmly committed to ensuring the freedom of expression of every citizen as per the Constitution but regretted that the conference was used for partisan political interests.
“It is unfortunate that such forums are being used to target state institutions, especially the armed forces, for partisan political interests,” PM Shehbaz said in a statement issued hours before he departed for Saudi Arabia to attend Saudi Future Investment Initiative Summit.
The premier said that the government itself provides the citizens with forums where they can freely express their differing views and opinions on matters of public importance but using a forum like Asma Jahangir Conference for unjustified sloganeering against the army was unfortunate when the “officers and men of armed forces are sacrificing their lives to save the country from internal and external threats”.
In addition, PM Shehbaz while assuring the nation of upholding the fundamental right of freedom of expression said that “I condemn the unjustified sloganeering against state institutions on Sunday”.
The PM noted that the sloganeering was done by a few participants, saying “we should be more responsible in public”.
Several videos of the anti-army sloganeering surfaced on social media, among other videos carrying speeches of judges, ministers, and others.
During Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's speech at the conference, several people from the audience also stood up and chanted slogans for the release of the incarcerated Member National Assembly (MNA) from South Waziristan, Ali Wazir.
Reportedly, when his speech was interrupted several times, Bilawal told the protestors to demand his release from those who have the power to release him.
“You should go and protest in front of those who have the power to release him [MNA Ali Wazir],” Bilawal said.
In his speech, Bilawal termed the removal of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government through a no-confidence motion in April this year “progress” for democratic forces and institutions.
“We sent Imran Khan home through a democratic process—the no-confidence motion. We have removed a prime minister, who assumed power through undemocratic means by using the democratic path,” Bilawal added.
“Before this, prime ministers were either removed by being sent to the gallows, eliminated by bomb blasts, exiled, disqualified through courts or by orders from Gate No 4,” he said, while referring to the military establishment.
Similarly, he continued that he hoped that opposition parties would stay in parliament and not come from Gate No 4.
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