ISLAMABAD: A day after he placed a bounty on the head of an American film-maker for his anti-Islam movie, Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, the minister for railways, came under fire from both the federal government and his own party.
Announcing a $100,000 bounty on Saturday, Bilour had invited members of the Taliban and al Qaeda to take part in the “noble deed”, and said given the chance he would kill the film-maker with his own hands.
The government has “nothing to do with the statement made by the railways minister,” Shafqat Jalil, a spokesperson for Premier Raja Pervaiz Ashraf told The Express Tribune. “This is not the government’s policy. We disassociate (ourselves) from this.”
Jalil added that even though the incumbent government respects its coalition partners, it could not endorse statements that may ignite the already provoked sentiments of Pakistanis.
Asked whether the railways minister would face any disciplinary action, Jalil said the prime minister would discuss the matter with Awami National Party (ANP) chief Asfandyar Wali Khan.
“Bilour will continue looking after his ministry till further orders or action by the premier,” Jalil added. The ANP, to which Bilour belongs, also disowned his comments as his “personal views”.
“The party policy is to raise the issue of anti-Islam film at international forums such as the United Nations and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation for a global law against sacrilege,” said ANP Senator Zahid Khan. However, he would not say if Bilour would face any disciplinary action.
Another ANP lawmaker, Bushra Gohar, went a step ahead and called Bilour’s bounty announcement as a “criminal act”.
In an interview with the BBC, she said the prime minister should seek an explanation from Bilour. ANP Senator Haji Adeel expressed similar views, saying Bilour’s remarks did not reflect the party policy.
Retract statement or resign: MQM
Meanwhile, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) condemned Bilour for announcing the bounty, saying such a reward would only isolate and embarrass Pakistan internationally.
Such extremist views are not acceptable to liberal and moderate Pakistanis, the MQM coordination committee said in a statement. Bilour should either retract his bigoted statement and apologise to the nation or resign from his ministry, it added.
Analyst and author Hasan Askari said Bilour was trying to keep ahead of public opinion in his home province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa where anti-Western feelings run high.
“There is a common phenomenon of point scoring in Pakistan politics and Bilour wanted to show that ‘we are not lagging behind any other group,’” Askari said.
More than 50 people have died in protests and attacks around the world linked to the low-budget film, since the first demonstrations on September 11.
(With additional input from AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, September 24th, 2012.