ISLAMABAD: The politicking in the build-up to two major anti-government protests seems to have moved out of the glare of Parliament and now lies solely behind closed doors.
A day after the treasury benches passionately brought the topic of PTI's Azadi March onto the floor of the house, unsuccessfully urging Imran Khan to delay it, there was no mention in the National Assembly session on Wednesday of topics that are causing a rise in political temperatures across the country.
The NA witnessed routine business today, with no mention of what has been happening outside Parliament, and, instead, discussed violence against religious minorities and decided to constitute a fact-finding committee.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), mentioning a recent case in which two Hindu brothers related to a member of the National Assembly were killed during a robbery in Sindh, highlighted the issue.
The discussion resulted in an agreement between the government and opposition that a fact-finding committee be constituted to probe the incidents of violence against religious minorities across the country.
PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi raised the issue through a point of order, following a brief protest when Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi asked him to wait and let him first take up a calling attention notice.
When PTI members started protesting, the leader of the opposition in the house intervened and asked the deputy speaker to let him speak. Till that time, no one knew exactly what Qureshi was going to say, with the ruling party fearing it could be something against the government.
Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif responded to Qureshi, saying both the federal and provincial governments should work hand in hand to provide security to minorities. “It is shameful that the sufferings of minorities were increasing. These incidents are also earning a bad name for the country,” he added.
The minister joined others in suggesting that a committee should be constituted to probe such incidents, adding that his government would also discuss the issue with provincial governments.
Taking the floor, Qureshi had said that unknown attackers killed two men related to PTI MNA Lal Chand in Umerkot district and noted that it was unfortunate that nothing had been done to provide security to minorities. He said that members of the Hindu community were left with no option other than migration given the circumstances.
He also asked the government to take notice of the situation and make appropriate security arrangements at the earliest.
Chand said that incidents of targeted killings, kidnappings and forced marriages of Hindu girls were on the rise in Sindh, adding that the government had failed to protect the rights of religious minorities.
Nawab Yousuf Talpur of the PPP asked the NA speaker to constitute an investigation committee and determine the reasons behind such incidents. He also presented a motion to set up a fact-finding committee in this regard.
The deputy speaker directed Minister for Science and Technology Zahid Hamid and Talpur to discuss the terms of reference (TORs) and finalise the names of committee members.
On Wednesday, a member of the Sikh community was shot dead and two others were injured in Peshawar when unidentified men opened fire on them. The deceased was identified as teenager Jagmot Singh.
Meanwhile, at the outset of the proceedings, Makhdoom Javed Hashmi of the PTI shared details of the incident in which authorities did not permit his plane to land in Sialkot, where he was scheduled to address a public rally.
“I swear I have never thought of becoming prime minister,” he said, further questioning, “Why were you (the PML-N) afraid of me.
Hashmi also highlighted his struggle for democracy and his term in jail during the rule of former military dictator Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf. “Everyone, except my own party [at the time, PML-N] spoke in my favour, and it happened due to a mistake of former PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto, who nominated me for the candidate of PM.”
“[It was not like] I was not going [to Sialkot] for a rebellion or to harm the system that you did not allow my plane to land,” he said. “I will be the first person to receive a bullet if someone tries to impose martial law,” he added.
In response, the defence minister asked Hashmi to move a privilege motion in order to ascertain the reason behind the incident. “No one can stop Javed Hashmi from going to Sialkot; even though we are no longer are in the same party, he can by my guest,” he added.