It is always dangerous when political leaders tie up with extremists. However, this is precisely what Railway Minister Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bilour has done. His controversial offer of a $100,000 bounty for the head of the film-maker who produced the anti-Islam video posted on YouTube has earned worldwide condemnation.
A significant proportion of this has come from the government and Bilour’s own party — the ANP, some members of which have demanded that he be punished for what they see as being a criminal act. Inciting people to murder is not a matter to be taken lightly.
But it appears that some groups are delighted. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), after their Shura meeting, has decided to remove Bilour’s name from their hit list, according to a message issued by the TTP’s spokesman. They have made it clear that this is a kind of a ‘reward’ for Bilour for making the offer and that other ANP leaders, still remain its targets. The Taliban have also requested other rich people in Pakistan to come up with similar schemes presumably aimed at killing those behind the video.
For all intents and purposes, Bilour has essentially placed himself in the militant camp. This strays far from his party’s line. His emotional outburst has created widespread complications given that he is holding a position of responsibility in the government and within his own party. For this reason it is imperative that action be taken against him. Why this step has not been initiated as yet, is not clear. The interior minister stated that talks will be held with the ANP chief, Asfandyar Wali Khan. But this is not a matter to linger over. A decision on Bilour’s future needs to be taken promptly.
Procrastination in taking concrete action could encourage others to adopt a similar stance or legitimise calls to act violently. This can simply not be permitted given the increased force it imparts to the Taliban and others who back the militant group. The matter should not be ignored further.
While the government has already sensibly distanced itself from the remark, it will need to do more to put itself completely in the clear and make it obvious that Bilour has acted entirely out of line.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 28th, 2012.
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