Information minister claims incident has granted ‘opportunity’ to government to take steps to prevent future occurrence of such crimes
Pakistan’s response to the Sialkot mob lynching shows that “we are not India,” Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said on Tuesday, vowing that the culprits of the heinous crime would be punished in accordance with law.
“The state is responsible for providing protection to every citizen belonging to minority communities,” he told journalists after a meeting of the federal cabinet. He said the cabinet had emphasized the importance of expediting a trial for the accused so they could be punished and justice ensured, adding that directions to this effect had been issued to the Punjab government. He regretted that whenever violence is directed against Muslims in India, there is little response from the government. In Pakistan, he claimed, the entire nation had united in condemning the attack.
He claimed that the lynching had granted the government an “opportunity” to implement steps to curb such incidents, adding that this had “not been available earlier.” He did not elaborate on why it did not have this option earlier.
Referring to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech during an event to honor Malik Adnan, the man who tried to shield Sri Lankan Priyantha Kumara, he said premier had hoped the lynching would unite the nation against mob violence just as it had united against terrorism after the massacre at Peshawar’s Army Public School in 2014.
The information minister said the cabinet had also been briefed on progress in implementing electronic voting machines (EVMs), adding the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should examine all aspects of the devices before criticizing their use. “If you criticize and reject [EVMs] without understanding them, that is where the problem arises. But if you say that you need time to contemplate on it, it is fine,” he claimed, adding that the ECP had already identified its issues with the devices and should tender for a machine that could overcome them.
Reiterating that the PTI wanted to implement EVMs to conduct “free and fair” elections, he also hit out at the opposition for questioning the government’s decision to grant overseas Pakistanis the right to vote from their place of resident, claiming it was “political suicide.” Pointing to the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), he claimed both should be praising the measure, as they had supporters within their own families who had spent time abroad and could not exercise their right to vote.
Aid for Afghanistan
Noting that international organizations were now recognizing humanitarian crises facing Afghanistan, the information minister said Islamabad was trying to help its neighbors to the best of its abilities. In addition to sending 250,000 tons of wheat to Afghans, he said, the government had also allowed Afghan nationals to travel to other countries from Pakistani airports.
He said the government had also abolished import duty on 40 items for Afghanistan and noted that a meeting of foreign ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) would soon be held in Pakistan to discuss the situation in the war-torn state.
Fawad said the cabinet had been briefed on the latest prices of essential commodities and claimed that it was incorrect to report that inflation was on the rise. He hailed the statistically negligible 0.48 percent decline in the Sensitive Price Index last week, claiming that prices of wheat and sugar had both declined in recent weeks.
He said that a ration program providing subsidies on three essential commodities to those earning less than Rs. 31,000/month would be launched from January. He also appreciated the Sindh government—who he often blames for inflation in the country—for taking steps to control the prices of daily use items in Karachi and Hyderabad.
He claimed it was “ridiculous” to criticize the government for trying to compare Pakistan’s inflation rates with regional countries—even though the criticism is largely over the government’s refusal to offer similar comparisons of purchasing power parity and not the inflation rates themselves.
”We are not drawing comparison of the country with France and the U.K.; rather it is being compared with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India,” he said, claiming that all essential commodities other than tea were cheaper in Pakistan than its regional neighbors.
Acknowledging the impact of inflation on the salaried class, he urged them to “adjust” their expenditures.