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May 12, 2017

Senators call for changing extremist mindset

Top Story

May 12, 2017

Mashal’s lynching

If situation not reversed, it will become difficult to live in society

ISLAMABAD: The lawmakers belonging to religious and political parties in the Senate on Thursday vehemently condemned the lynching of Mashal Khan and feared if the mindset behind such gory incidents was not reversed, it might become impossible to live in the society.

Senators called for trying the Mashal lynching case in a military court for speedy verdict and award of due punishment to the culprits. They wanted the strictest punishment to those who were found involved in leveling baseless charges of blasphemy.

There were strong calls for implementation of the law to prevent mob violence while senators also were alarmed by what they called exploiting the name of religion for ulterior motives. Some lawmakers advocated urgent steps to halt the misuse of blasphemy law and insisted that the Constitution and the law must be implemented in letter and spirit.

Senators were at pain to mention that while ‘selfies were made and photographs were taken, none came forward to rescue the poor youth from the mob, that too at the Abdul Wali Khan University. They emphasised that taking the law in one’s own hands just could not be allowed. However, they wondered, the nation was asking the question who would take action to address this issue.

They noted there was a pattern in using the name of religion and referred to other recent incidents, including taking life of a person by two married sisters in Sialkot, Hub violence and the Chitral incident. The senators conceded that the Mashal lynching was not the first or the last incident to happen in Pakistan.

PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar opened the debate on the first day of the session, summoned on the requisition application of the joint opposition to discuss a host of key national matters.

He pointed out that the rise in such incidents was a cause of serious concern, as mob violence was increasingly becoming a routine in the society. He said parliament should play its role in preventing the misuse of the blasphemy law. “Mob violence is a social and legal issue,” he noted.

Senator Babar believed that certain elements were suppressing expression of freedom in the name of religion, which was regrettable. He reiterated that the process on the Senate Committee of Law and Justice’s observations, made in 1992, should be taken forward to prevent the misuse of the law while it had endorsed death penalty to the convicted person under the law. He noted that now the name of religion was being used to hush up the voice of those who challenged the state's narrative and also referred to some bloggers who had gone missing after having challenged the state's narrative.

Leader of the Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan said strict action should be taken against those responsible for lynching of Mashal Khan. He emphasised all those, after identifying in the lynching video, should not be given clemency and everyone should be tried according to the law.

He said the Mashal lynching case should be tried in a military court for misuse of religion. He also urged Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani that the matter should be deliberated upon by the Committee of the Whole of the House, inviting leading Ulema, lawyers, media persons and other important figures on the issue of extremist mindset so that a unanimous view to address the issue could emerge.

PTI’s Muhammad Azam Swati said politicians, lawmakers, Ulema, lawyers and every segment of the society would have to play their due role in changing the extremist mindset and presenting the soft image of Pakistan and Islam.

Sherry Rehman of PPP said the growing intolerance was becoming the number one issue of the society. She said serious efforts should be made to check mob violence. She referred to the latest HRCP report to note that the violence against women and minorities was increasing in Pakistan.

PPP’s Rubina Khalid said that the war against terrorism could not be won without having a counter-narrative to check extremism in the country. She urged the chairman to constitute a Committee of the Whole to evolve a counter-narrative. She wondered at what stage was the counter-narrative, as mentioned by the Ministry of Interior a few months ago, which is part of the 20-point National Action Plan.

Maulana Attaur Rehman of JUI-F said no one should be allowed to take the law into hands. He said his party expressed complete sympathy with Mashal Khan. He said the implementation of law in letter and spirit was the way forward to prevent such incidents.

However, he cautioned that it would be inappropriate to talk about changing the blasphemy law on the basis of these incidents.

Minister for Ports and Shipping Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo of the National Party feared that it would become difficult to live in a society if growing religious intolerance was not stopped, requesting all the political parties and Ulema to join hands in checking the menace from the society.

Nihal Hashmi of PML-N urged Ulema to give the true message of Islam on patience and tolerance. Similarly, he added the liberal elements should also try to better understand the religion instead of criticising it. Mir Kabir of National Party said that it was an important issue, which should be discussed in the Committee of the Whole of the Senate or the matter should be debated by convening an All Parties Conference.

Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party’s Muhammad Usman Kakar alleged the university administration was mainly responsible for lynching of Mashal as well as some students and those having political affiliations. He urged political parties, religious leaders and media organisations to come forward in curbing the extremist mindset from the Pakistani society.  He proposed that Mashal's parents should be given an award for demonstrating decency and courage even on the death of their son, the Department of Mass Communication of the Abdul Wali Khan University should be named after Mashal Khan and his case should be tried speedily.

Awami National Party’s Shahi Syed said some people were doing politics on the issue of Mashal’s lynching and called for action against the culprits, irrespective of their political affiliation. PML-N’s Chaudhary Tanvir Khan said extremist elements were defaming Islam by promoting intolerance.

Hafiz Hamdullah of JUI-F complained that everyone talked about the law and the Constitution but none followed it. He called for ensuring the implementation of 295-C of the law. Winding up discussion, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Shaikh Aftab Ahmad said that lynching of a student at a university was a terrible incident, having shaken the entire world.

He said the provincial government was extensively investigating the matter and the police had so far arrested 47 persons. He held out an assurance to the House that the government would take every step to protect lives and properties of the citizens.