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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Punjab clarifies its position on racism against Pakhtuns

Punjab government has in the last couple of days received acidic criticism on social and electronic media. This started after stories were leaked about ‘racial profiling’ and ‘stereotyping’ and notices that were seen in shops and other places that targeted Pakhtuns and Afghans in the province. Apparently, instructions had also been sent to hotels to not give rooms to anyone who looked Pakhtun.

Last week notices in Mandi Bahauddin, were also sent by the Punjab police seeking public support for the identification of ‘suspicious persons of Afghan or Pakhtun origin’. Senior police officers now claim this was not done with their authority and will hold an inquiry to track down those responsible for it.

KPK politicians jump into the fight over demonization of Pakhtuns

Politicians and lawmakers from KPK jumped into the struggle after it went viral on social media, by bashing the Punjab government for their ‘demonising’ behavior that was hurting the sentiments and feelings of the people in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

A resolution was passed on Monday in the KP assembly against the racial profiling of Pakhtuns. This resolution was moved by Sahibzada Sanaullah of Pakistan People’s Party, which called upon the federal government for the immediate release of the arrested Pakhtuns in Punjab and other parts of Pakistan.

Lawmakers gave blazing speeches in which they strongly condemned the harassment and profiling of the Pukhtuns in Punjab, Sindh and Kashmir in the name of ‘clampdown on terror’.

“What sort of message is the Punjab government trying to send with these advertisements?”

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While addressing the house he pointed out that young Pakhtun boys, working as shoe-shiners have also been detained and put behind bars in the on-going raids in Punjab. He said, “It seems like the war is not against terrorism but against the Pakhtuns,” with a warning that it can have a retaliation in Kyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Fiery speeches were made in the provincial assembly this issue being dangerous for the federation of Pakistan and Shah Farman, Minister for Public Health Engineering in K-P, accused PML-N of following the agenda of Narendra Modi, Indian Prime Minister, by saying, “We don’t have issues with the Punjabis or the Sindhis. We have issues with the PML-N.” He accused Modi of wanting to destabilize Pakistan by inciting hatred between provinces.

Bakht Baidar Khan, Qaumi Watan Party lawmaker, demanded a full strike in K-P for protesting against the injustice being meted out to Pakhtuns. In his address, “We have suffered the most in the war against terrorism. This house has lost four members to terrorist attacks.’

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Punjab responds defensively

The Punjab government has protested vociferously against these stories and have confirmed that no such instructions have been given out in the province to deal badly with Pakhtuns. The Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif tweeted that we have only one identity.

Rana Sanaullah, Punjab Law Minister, also clarified on Tuesday, “Pakhtuns living in Punjab are our brothers,” and quoting the chief minister, “They have same right to live and conduct business in Punjab as anyone else”.

The law minister said that all efforts will be made for “protection of the four walls of houses and people’s respect,” during the search operations.

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He went on to accuse the other parties of working against the country and creating fear and enemities amongst the people.  “It is highly condemnable that some so-called political parties and leaders in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are doing political point scoring on the matter they want to gain people’s sympathies by inflicting fear in them. This is enmity against the country.”

The law minister said that all efforts will be made for “protection of the four walls of houses and people’s respect,” during the search operations.

PTI have sent Chaudhry Nisar, Interior Minister, an open letter which demands an instantaneous end to “systemic racial profiling” of the Pakhtuns throughout the country. The letter also states that PTI claims that some Punjab government ministers are sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan.

Racial profiling and discrimination of Pakhtuns has also been condemned by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, with remarks that it will negatively affect war against terrorism.