Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s remarks about classification of banned organisations in the Senate on Tuesday sparked controversy, prompting the opposition to walk out of the house in protest.
Responding to the objection to his meeting with a delegation comprising members of a banned outfit, the interior minister said outlawed sectarian organisations should not be equated with those of terrorist outfits. He also stated that unfortunately sectarian violence had been continuing for 1,300 years.
Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, who spearheaded the walkout, said before leaving the house that the banned outfit whose head had been served with tea was responsible for this violence.
Talking to Dawn after the walkout, the MQM Senator said the interior minister’s remarks were surprising as some sectarian organisations were more dangerous and cruel than the Taliban. Accusing the government of promoting sectarianism, Mr Mashhadi said these sectarian outfits were equally terrorists.
Chaudhry Nisar said some organisations were purely terrorists while some had clash on sectarian lines, adding that these organisations had been allowed to contest elections during the previous government.
About the issue of enforced disappearances, he said the practice had taken root during the period between 2002 and 2008, but added that now it was neither the policy of the government nor would the government brook it.
“Now the decisions are taken by the government and in parliament, and not somewhere else,” he said, claiming that a number of missing persons had been recovered over the past three-and-a-half years and the government had made its policy clear in June 2013 when it assumed power.
Rejecting what he called the propaganda against him, his ministry and the government over the National Action Plan (NAP) and the internal security plan, he said he had briefed the house four times since March 5 last year. He said a new record of intelligence sharing with the provinces had been set.
Chaudhry Nisar said his ministry had even been criticised for the attack on the Karachi airport despite the fact that three alerts had been sent to the Sindh government and even the gate from where the terrorists were to enter had also been specified.
He asked his critics to ascertain the domains of the provinces and the federation while indulging in political point scoring. He explained that the federal government had no authority to go for operation in the provinces. He said the Centre had a good working relationship with the governments of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and he had never allowed the political point of view to affect the nature of this relationship.
The minister recalled that the decision to launch the operation in Karachi had been taken with consensus. He referred to his meetings with the Rangers director general, the chief minister and the governor and some political figures of Sindh in July 2013 and the statement of MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar on Aug 28 calling for handing over of Karachi to the army.
He claimed that he had pleaded for an operation by civilian armed forces with the chief minister as its captain and said the operation had been launched by the federal and provincial governments.
He said that at a time when the graph of terrorism was going up in the world, the situation was entirely different in Pakistan where the situation was improving with every passing day. He said it was for the first time in the recent history that the number of terror incidents across the country had gone below 1,000 in a year. And of these, there was no loss of life in 474 incidents. Chaudhry Nisar claimed that he had issued a statement in favour of the then Sindh chief minister when demands were being made for his resignation. He said militants wanted to create chaos and when dealing with the challenge of terrorism, there was a need to create unity.
He said he had chaired 142 meetings on counterterrorism and security over the past three-and-a-half years, adding that in addition to these, 44 high-profile security meetings were held at the Prime Minister’s House.
Referring to the military operations launched in South Waziristan and Swat during the PPP government, he said these were very effective but followed a backlash in urban areas with the number of terrorist incidents jumping to 2,000 in a year. He was of the opinion that the military operation alone could not establish internal security.
The minister said joint efforts had resolved a big problem to a great extent, adding that a major role had been played by the armed forces whose sacrifices led to clearance of North Waziristan. The war on terror should not be politicised and should be jointly taken to its logical conclusion.
Later talking to reporters in his Parliament House chambers, he disclosed that the Sindh government, through a letter written to his ministry, had sought proscription of 94 ‘suspected’ religious seminaries.
“This is something ridiculous. How can you proscribe madressahs?” he wondered. He said it was for the provinces to take action against the suspected religious seminaries.
Chaudhry Nisar said the most ridiculous part was that the list included the names of seminaries in other provinces, including Punjab, KP and Balochistan. He regretted that before the letter reached the interior ministry, the Sindh chief minister made a statement on it.
Earlier, Law Minister Zahid Hamid laid before the Senate the recently promulgated National Accountability (Amendment) Ordinance.
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Aitzaz Ahsan regretted that the ordinance had been promulgated even after a session of the Senate opposed the lifetime ban on holders of public office.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif will respond to the questions about appointment of former army chief General Raheel Sharif as commander of the 39-nation Saudi-led alliance of Islamic forces, when the house meets on Wednesday (today) at 2.30pm.