Pak`s Punjab Governor slams CM Shahbaz for plea to Taliban
Last Updated: Wednesday, March 17, 2010, 20:58
  
Islamabad: Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer on Wednesday accused the PML-N government in Pakistan's most populous province of being soft on banned groups like Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashker-e-Jhangvi and slammed Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif for his recent plea to Taliban to "spare" his state.

Shahbaz Sharif, the younger brother of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, had appealed to the Taliban to "spare" Punjab because his party and the militants had both opposed former military ruler Pervez Musharraf and "dictation" by foreign forces.

"If the Chief Minister is bending on his knees before (the militants), it is not a happy situation. His comments triggered revulsion across the country. We can't allow the terrorists any space or show them any weakness," Taseer said during an interaction with members of the international media.

Taseer, considered a close confidant of President Asif Ali Zardari, is a member of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) that is in power at the centre.

He said Shahbaz Sharif's comments were the latest in a series of events that showed up the PML-N's soft approach to banned and extremist groups.

"The Punjab Law Minister is running around with leaders of the Sipah-e-Sahaba, which is an extreme right wing, anti-Shia group, along with a police escort and armed militants," he said, referring to provincial minister Rana Sanaullah's meetings with leaders of the banned group during recent by-polls in Jhang district.

The Punjab government, Taseer said, has a strategy to counter extremism and terrorism but its implementation is not "strong enough."

"These people (militants) cannot be let off as they are ruthless," he said.

Shahbaz Sharif has been at the centre of a storm over the past few days though he tried to distance himself from the comments he made at a seminar in Lahore on Sunday.

After the remarks were aired on TV news channels, Shahbaz had to hold meetings with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and powerful army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to explain his position.

Outraged lawmakers in the National Assembly or lower house of parliament and the North West Frontier Province assembly condemned his remarks. The outcry in NWFP, which has borne the brunt of Taliban attacks, was particularly strong.

NWFP legislator Nighat Orakzai offered her "dupatta" to Shahbaz, saying he should wear it and hide in the Chief Minister's residence. "The 'Pathan' women are prepared to come and defend him," she told reporters.

Asked about the options available to him as Governor to tackle the situation in Punjab, Taseer said he "did not want to discuss these options."

He said he was creating pressure on the PML-N so that they "did not get away" with what they were doing. "We don't want a situation of Governor's Rule in Punjab. We want security and we want the democratic process to continue. We don't want to go to a stage where there is federal rule in the province."

PTI


First Published: Wednesday, March 17, 2010, 20:58


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