The government’s security czar condemned on Tuesday the terrorist attacks on two Lahore churches but said the subsequent lynching of two men by a mob was “the worst kind of terrorism”.
“No one can be given a licence to kill people in reaction to terrorist attacks. What message have we sent to the world through this heinous act [lynching] which is like ridiculing our Constitution, law and the judiciary,” Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the interior minister, told lawmakers in the lower house of parliament. “We have identified all those involved in lynching,” he added.
The interior minister was briefing the National Assembly on various law and order issues, including the Shikarpur Imambargah bombing and the scheduled execution of a young convict, Shafqat Hussain. However, surprisingly Nisar skipped the Rangers raid on the MQM headquarters in Karachi for the second consecutive day even though lawmakers from PkMAP and Jamaat-e-Islami asked him to take the house into confidence on the issue.
Speaking about the Lahore church bombings, Nisar criticised the lawmakers who denounce the terrorist attack but did not condemn the lynching of two persons on mere suspicion. “[Violent] Reaction to the church attacks should not be ignored as it is another form of terrorism,” he added. “Shias had also been attacked in Shikarpur and Quetta but no such reaction was witnessed after those tragedies.”
He said the Lahore tragedy and subsequent incidents resulted in the death of 21 people, including 14 Christians and seven Muslims.
Briefing the house on the case of young condemned prisoner Shafqat Hussain who is scheduled to be executed on March 19, the minister said the case should not be politicised as he has highlighted the issues involved in any attempt to reopen the case.
Rights activists are campaigning against the execution of Shafqat who, they say, was 14 years’ old when an anti-terrorism court in Karachi condemned him to death in 2004 for kidnapping and killing a seven-year-old boy.
Nisar, however, asked for proof to establish that Shafqat was juvenile when convicted. “It is a matter of law and Constitution because the seven-year-old child killed by him [Shafqat] also had legal rights,” he added. “No record of Shafqat Hussain’s age is available.”
He recalled that even the Sindh High Court and the Supreme Court had upheld Shafqat’s conviction while then president Asif Ali Zardari had also turned down his clemency appeal in 2012. “Proof [of Shafqat being juvenile] should be brought within the next 36 hours, before March 19, which is the date of his execution. Otherwise, he will be hanged on March 19 in accordance with the law,” he added.
Nisar told the house that two alleged terrorists involved in the January 30 act on Karbal Moalla Imambargah in Shikarpur have been arrested. “The arrests took place due to close coordination between security and intelligence agencies,” he added.
Lawmakers from opposition PPP and ANP as well as government ally PkMAP staged a walkout from the house in protest at non-convening of a meeting of the Council of Common Interests for the last nine months. Later, on the demand of PkMAP chief Mahmood Khan Ackakzai, Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Riaz Hussain Pirzada apologised to the lawmakers.
PPP MNA Belum Hasnain also introduced a private legislation seeking establishment of a National Commission for Minorities, which the chair referred to the concerned house committee. Similarly, JI lawmakers introduced Disabled Persons (Employment & Rehabilitation) Amendment Bill 2015 as well as Federal Witness Protection Bill 2015 aimed at speedy trial of terrorists by providing protection to witnesses.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 18th, 2015.