- Police spokesperson says targeting any ethnicity wouldn’t make sense
LAHORE: Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry late on Saturday night said that a Punjab Government television advertisement regarding security arrangements in Muharram, in which Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) leader Manzoor Pashteen, and two sitting MNAs from Waziristan, Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar, had been labelled proponents of hate speech and sectarianism has been retracted.
The advertisement, which had been running on different television channels, encourages people to report, among other things, “speeches based on hateful or sectarian content” while running footage of Manzoor Pashteen speaking at a rally flanked by MNAs Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar.
This is completely insane. TV Advert of Home Department Punjab is being aired on National TV featuring Human Rights activist Manzoor Pasheen and member National Assembly @mjdawar as terrorists. pic.twitter.com/xhGZvPzWD2
— Ihsan Tipu Mehsud (@IhsanTipu) September 15, 2018
As per Fawad Chaudhry, the advertisement has been retracted as soon as the mistake was brought to their attention.
“This ad was immediately taken off as soon as it was brought to our attention. It was aired hardly a few times before channels were asked not to air such an ad. I urge people not to circulate this rejected version” he tweeted.
It still remains to be seen, however, how the ad was allowed to go to the airing stage in the first place. While the PTM has often been called ‘anti-state’ and other such things by its detractors, calling it a sectarian movement borders on the realm of bizarre on the part of the Home Department which is responsible for the ad.
“It would have been extremely offensive if something like this had been done by the federal government but it is made particularly worse coming from a provincial government,” said NA-48 MNA Mohsin Dawar speaking to Pakistan Today.
“The important point here is what Punjab wants to say about itself as a nation and as a people. That the people of the largest province of this country think us asking for our rights is hate speech and somehow sectarian?”
Using images of two sitting federal legislators from the tribal regions along with Manzoor Pashteen to display ‘sectarian violence’ makes little sense as the PTM is a movement geared towards recognising the rights of Pashtuns and missing persons, and has nothing to do with sectarian issues of any kind.
In fact, in its capacity as an anti-Taliban force, the PTM is actually an actively anti-sectarian movement that stands in the face of such discrimination and violence.
Police spokesperson Nayyab Haider also seemed confused regarding the ad. In a statement to Pakistan Today, he said the Punjab police were being extra vigilant regarding known sectarian groups, there were no orders to keep an eye on the PTM.
“No ethnicity is being targeted as this would not make sense. Our goal is taking care of the sectarian problem for now and no other,” he said.
When asked whether he thought there was a racial element to this, Mohsin Dawar agreed, saying that this is the sense they have gotten from this advertisement.
“I knew people could be racist, but I never imagined that a state could be racist like this against its own people,” he added. “We are the elected representatives of our people, and Manzoor is our leader. He is the leader of a national movement. How can they say our words are hate speech or sectarian?” questioned Dawar.
While the ad was later retracted, Dawar did make a demand for an inquiry into how it was allowed to go on air in the first place.
“This is a very dangerous and malicious act on behalf of the Punjab government, and if no inquiry is made, then we will have gotten a message from Punjab as to what they think of us asking for our rights,” he went on to say.
Meanwhile, provincial information minister Fayaz Chohan remained unavailable for comment despite multiple attempts. The provincial secretary for the home department also remained unresponsive.