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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


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

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