ISLAMABAD: Minister for Planning, Development and reforms Ahsan Iqbal on Tuesday apprised the National Assembly that killing of civilians in Lahore during a protest demonstration was not an act of vengeance but retaliation to firing at police personnel.
The opposition parties on Tuesday walked out from the National Assembly against the killing of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) workers by the Punjab Police. They also lashed out at the PML-N government “for endangering democracy through such acts”. As the news of the killings of PAT workers arrived, the opposition parties got united on one point to condemn what they called the inhuman act of the Punjab government to kill peaceful workers of a political party.
Ahsan Iqbal told the House that concrete barricades had been placed around the Minhajul Quran Secretariat in Lahore in violation of the rules. They also hindered police movement, he said, adding that as the police personnel tried to remove the barricades, they were pelted with stones and fired upon from inside the building, which injured some police personnel. He said the civilians were killed in cross-firing when police retaliated. The minister said that women were used as human shields to bar police entry into the building. Iqbal said Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has already ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident to fix responsibility and also to ascertain the reasons that led to this tragedy.
The tempers in the House rose so much over the incident that leader of the opposition Khursheed Shah called upon Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to come forward and ask his brother (Shahbaz Sharif) “why he is conspiring against him by killing innocent people”. “Is it a democracy where innocent people are being slaughtered?” Shah asked and condemned the Punjab government’s targeting of political workers. Later, opposition parties Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Awami National Party (ANP), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Qaumi Watan Party led by Aftab Khan Shrepao and Balochistan National Party (Mengal) walked out from the session against the killing of the PAT workers in Lahore.
The government, on the other hand, looked helpless against the onslaught of the opposition parties, who rejected the stance of Ahsan Iqbal that the police operation was launched to remove encroachments in the shape of barricades that were placed around the Minhaj-ul-Quran Secretariat.
“Don’t try to bail out Punjab government,” Khursheed Shah retorted in response to Ahsan Iqbal’ statement, and urged the government to apologise over the incident. Shah said that the government has no threat from anywhere but from itself “because of its egoistic attitude for having two-thirds majority”.
Asking what threat could cleric Tahirul Qadri pose to it, the opposition leader said that the government appears to be rolling back the democratic set-up. “Qadri came to Pakistan during our government and we simply held a dialogue and persuaded him to end the protest,” he said.
Ahsan Iqbal condemned the incident. He contended that putting the blame on the government is not appropriate, as it would destroy the national consensus reached just a day before on military assault against terrorists in North Waziristan Agency.
He said that women were killed as they were used as human shields by the people inside the building who, Ahsan claimed, first fired shots at the police. PTI’s Javed Hashmi said that Lahore was turned into a slaughterhouse and sought an explanation from the government on this tragic episode.
Meanwhile, MQM’s Farooq Sattar said “that this aggressive and brutal act of the Punjab government is not compatible with its claims of being democratic”.
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