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'No religious minority is safe in Pakistan', admits Defence Minister after recent mob lynchings

Pakistan's Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said despite being offered constitutional protections, religious minorities in the country were being killed. He said Pakistan was facing global embarrassment and safety of all minorities should be ensured.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Islamabad Published on: June 24, 2024 17:26 IST
Pakistan's defence minister Khawaja Asif
Image Source : ANI (FILE) Pakistan's defence minister Khawaja Asif

Islamabad: In a bold statement, Pakistan's Defence Minister Khwaja Asif on Sunday admitted that the country had failed to protect its minorities and that they are facing targeted violence in the name of religion. His remarks came after two separate cases of mob lynchings on blasphemy allegations within a month that have rocked the country and sparked criticism over the state's failure to curb mob violence.

Asif's remarks came as the National Assembly, the lower house of Pakistan's parliament, passed a resolution condemning the recent incidents of mob lynching amid surprise opposition by lawmakers from incarcerated former PM Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), according to Dawn. "Minorities are being murdered daily ….. no religious minority is safe in Pakistan. Even the smaller sects of the Muslims are not safe," he said.

He criticised the opposition lawmakers for not letting him speak while Pakistan was facing embarrassment at the global level. He highlighted that religious minorities, even smaller sects within Islam, were not being protected despite constitutional protections. “Our Constitution provides protection to the minorities, but practically we are seeing them being murdered in Swat, Sargodha and Faisalabad. This is a matter of concern and embarrassment [for the nation],” said the minister.

'People using blasphemy allegations for personal vendettas'

The Pakistani defence minister also pointed out that the charges of blasphemy had not been proven against all those people who were killed after being accused of committing blasphemy, and further said that many victims were targeted with such allegations due to personal vendettas. 

"Even smaller Muslim sects are not safe in Pakistan, which is a disgraceful situation... While our constitution guarantees minority rights, there are incidents of violence occurring across various locations. Those who have been killed so far did not have any evidence linking them to blasphemy; rather, these killings seem to stem from personal vendettas," he said.

Khawaja Asif further said, "We must ensure the safety of our minority brothers and sisters. They have as much right to live in this country as the majority. Pakistan belongs to all Pakistanis, regardless of whether they are Muslim, Christian, Sikh, or of any other faith. Our Constitution guarantees full protection to minorities."

Pakistan's resolution on mob lynchings

Meanwhile, Pakistan's law minister Azam Nazeer Tarar passed a resolution, which said, "This House takes serious notice of the recent mob lynching of our citizens accused of offences in Swat and Sargodha. It is noted that such incidents have recently increased in different parts of the country."

It urged the federal and provincial governments "to ensure the safety and security of all citizens, including religious minorities and other vulnerable segments of society". However, protesting opposition members shouted “no” when the deputy speaker put the resolution for a voice vote.

PTI chairman Gohar Ali Khan urged the minister to delay the presentation of the resolution till the ministers, who staged a walkout to protest the government's decision   to launch fresh military operation against terrorists in the country, had arrived in the House. He also said any such resolution should state that "there should be no lynching (of a party) by an institution".

Mob lynchings on blasphemy allegations

An enraged mob brutally lynched and dragged Mohammad Ismail, 40, a tourist from Sialkot, through the town for allegedly burning some pages of the Quran before hanging him in full public view in the Swat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Thursday. At least 23 people were arrested in this regard.

The latest incident of mob violence nearly a month after a mob led by radical Islamists unleashed an attack on Christians in Pakistan's Punjab province over the allegations of desecration of the Quran that left at least two members from the minority community injured, one of them seriously. Later, he succumbed to his injuries. 

On Saturday, Pakistan’s Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal condemned the lynching, lamenting how religion is being weaponised to justify "street justice" and "vigilantism". “We must take notice of this incident as our nation is on the brink. We have now reached a point where we are using religion to justify mob violence and street justice, flagrantly violating the Constitution, the law and the state,” Iqbal said.

ALSO READ | Pakistan: 23 arrested for lynching, hanging man in public on allegations of Quran desecration


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