Dubai: By sacking a sitting minister on ‘hate speech’ charges, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has once again proven that he would not tolerate any form of extremism and discrimination against any community in the country.
For the first time in the history of Pakistan, a minister has been removed over derogatory remarks made against minorities and the decision is being widely hailed by a cross section of people.
Fayyazul Chohan, Information Minister of Punjab — now former — was forced to resign on Tuesday by the Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar for his derogatory remarks about the Hindu community during his speech in Lahore last week.
A day after his sacking, he was immediately replaced by another Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader, Syed Sumsam Ali Bokhari, who was sworn in on Wednesday.
Chohan, who is known for as ‘firebrand’ leader for his outspoken remarks, came under fire this week for his objectionable comments against Hindus.
His discriminatory remarks triggered a hashtag on social media calling for his sacking.
What did Chohan say?
A video of Chohan had surfaced where he referred to the Hindus as “cow urine-drinking people”.
“Don’t operate under the delusion that you are seven times better than us. What we have, you can’t have, you idol-worshippers,” he said in a video that went viral on the social media and invited backlash from all walks of life. His remarks came at an event in Lahore on Feb 24, and his words were ostensibly in response to India’s aggressive anti-Pakistan rhetoric after the Pulwama attack.
Though he appologised and explained that his remark were geared towards the Hindi community in India, it was not enough to save his skin.
His derogatory comments were also immediately condemned by senior PTI leaders including among others Naeem-ul-Haque, Shireen Mazari and Asad Umar. They reminded him that Pakistani Hindus are part and parcel of the country.
Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Political Affairs Naeemul Haque in a tweet said: “PTI would not “tolerate this nonsense from a senior member of the government … action would be taken against the minister after consultation with Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar.”
What Imran says on minorities
Earlier, in a message to the community on the occasion of Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s birth anniversary, December 25, Imran had talked about equality for all citizens and he stood by his word.
Imran had tweeted: “Quaid (Mohammad Ali Jinnah) envisaged Pakistan as a democratic, just and compassionate nation. Most importantly he wanted our minorities to be equal citizens. It should be remembered that his early political career was as an ambassador for Hindu-Muslim unity.”
Hindu parliamentarians hail the decision
PTI MNA and Pakistan Hindu Council Chairman Dr. Ramesh Kumar welcomed sacking of Chohan by the PTI leadership. “The party was under a lot of pressure to take appropriate action against Chohan’s hateful comments hurting the sentiments of the Hindu community.”
“As a representative and chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council and on behalf of the entire Hindu community, I welcome and commend Prime Minister Imran Khan and the party’s senior leadership for handling the matter accordingly,” he added.
“This action would surely suffice as a warning that offensive comments against people of a certain religion or group will not be tolerated in Pakistan,” he added.
The firebrand minister Chohan had also come under fire at least twice for his harsh and insulting words against female film and television artists and later against journalist. On both the occasion, he apologised after he was criticised on the television and social media.
Another Senator Krishna Kumari Kohli, who was elected senator by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in 2018, appreciated Prime Minister Imran’s decision to Chohan as minister for information in Punjab.
Kohli, who is also known as Kishoo Bai is Pakistan’s first female senator from the Dalit caste. “It was really heart-breaking for me to hear what he said about the Hindu community,” she told a television channel.
“He targeted the Hindu community at a time when we were showing the world that we are a peace-loving country.”
“It was a great decision .. but now we also have to see how far with they [the PTI] go? Will he also be removed from the party? Because Chohan seems to be a victim of habit,” she noted.
Hindu Population in Pakistan
Though there are no exact official numbers available, Pakistan Hindu Council says that there than 8 million Hindus currently living Pakistan.
They constitute about 4% of the population of 220 million. They live primarily in the urban areas of the province of Sindh in the lower Indus valley and over half are concentrated in the south-east district of Tharparkar which borders India.
For the most part Hindus in Pakistan are well educated and active in commerce, trade and the civil service.
According to the Council, approximately 94 per cent of Hindus are living in Sindh Province, and more than 4 percent are living in Punjab Province of
Pakistan, where as a small portion of this population is settled in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Provinces.