ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League (N) spokesman Senator Pervaiz Rasheed has said the PML-N has neither any shortage of candidates for general elections nor it needs the support of any extremist group or to borrow its candidates. In a press statement, Pervaiz Rasheed said the PML-N is a popular political party and has candidates for every constituency to contest general elections. “Due to a large number of candidates, the short-listing is in the final stage. The PML-N’s platform is already full and there is no room for any more candidates. The PML-N does not need to adjust candidates of any extremist party or sectarian group by disregarding its own candidates. PML-N during its last and present tenure has been determined in the crackdown against Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and had arrested Malik Ishaq and other extremists.
The Punjab government has never supported any group or organisation on the issue of sectarianism and has rather been firm in maintenance of sectarian harmony. Allegations levelled by Amir Mir in this regard are therefore totally baseless and contrary to the facts”.
Amir Mir responds: “First of all, no allegation was levelled against anyone in my report which was based on facts and filed after getting version from central PML-N leader Mr Siddiqul Farooq. The crux of my report was that the the Punjab government is unlikely to launch a crackdown against the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba because of a seat adjustment deal between the PML-N and the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (formerly SSP) for the upcoming elections. But in his press release, Mr Pervez Rasheed did not touch the actual issue - Punjab government’s reluctance to act against the banned extremist groups. The entire focus of his press release is the electoral standing of the PML-N, though he should have explained why Malik Ishaq has not been detained despite repeated requests by the ministry of interior, especially after the gruesome massacre of over 200 Shia Hazaras in Quetta.
As this scribe contacted Mr Siddiqul Farooq before filing the story and asked him about reports of a clandestine deal between the PML-N and ASWJ for seat adjustments, he said: “It is totally moral and principled for the PPP to seek the support of the extremist groups when they need their votes. But if any other party even thinks of getting their electoral support, it is lambasted by the PPP and declared pro-fascists”. He further said: “I want to know if allegations against these groups have already been established in any court; have these groups already been declared terrorist outfits by any court and if the government still believes these groups are involved in terrorism, it should approach the Supreme Court to get them banned”.
Pervez Rasheed has stated that his party was not seeking the support of any extremist group in the coming elections, and that the Punjab government has never supported any sectarian group or organisation and has been firm in maintenance of sectarian harmony. I beg to differ with him and would like to remind him that the PML-N and ASWJ had jointly contested a by-election on a Punjab Assembly seat for Jhang in March 2010. The Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah chose to campaign for PML-N candidate in PP-82 [on February 20, 2010] along with Maulana Mohammad Ahmed Ludhianvi. The friendly treatment meted out to Ishaq by the present rulers of Punjab can be gauged from Rana Sanaullah’s confession that his family was paid a regular monthly stipend by the Punjab government while he was behind the bars. I would also like to remind Mr Rasheed that following the March 2010 TTP fidayeen attacks in Lahore which targeted the provincial headquarters of the ISI and the Manawan police training centre, Shahbaz Sharif had appealed to the Taliban to “spare Punjab”, adding that the PML-N shared their anti-US stance. And last but not the least, PML-N president Nawaz Sharif has recently endorsed talks with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan despite the grave threat they pose to the Pakistani state and the society. I, therefore, stand by my report”.