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U-Turn of the month: the return of Fayyaz Chohan

Imran Khan’s government breaks yet another promise as Fayyaz Chohan is welcomed back in the Punjab cabinet.

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Fayyaz Chohan

ISLAMABAD: In what the opposition is announcing as another turnaround from Imran Khan’s government, former Punjab Minister of Information and Culture Fayyalul Hassan Chohan has been given the portfolio of Minister of Forestry, Fisheries, and Wildlife in the Punjab government.

The oath was administered by Speaker Punjab Assembly Chaudhry Pervez Elahi and was attended by likes of Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar and others.

The aforementioned ministry was vacated by Sibtain Khan who is facing corruption charges and is under National Accountability Bureau (NAB) investigation.

READ MORE: Mr Khan, keep your Naya Pakistan to yourself

The bigoted minister

From The Express Tribune
Written by Imad Zafar

When Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) came to power, Fayyaz Chohan was given charge of the Punjab Information Ministry. During his stint as Punjab’s information minister, Chohan not only used derogatory language against his political opponents, but he also passed disrespectful, misogynistic remarks about a stage actress, accusing her of spreading vulgarity in society. His statements soon became an embarrassment for the PTI government and it seemed that every time Chohan spoke, PTI had to clean up the mess after him.

However, when Chohan spoke against the Hindu community in an offensive and bigoted manner, it seemed that he had finally crossed the line. Pressure was put on PTI and Imran Khan finally asked Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar to sack Chohan from the ministry. It seemed like this was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back. But now he’s back and this time veiled as Minister of Forestry.

PTI recently took another U-turn and appointed Chohan as the minister of Forestry, Fisheries, and Wildlife. It is pertinent to note that when Chohan was initially removed, PTI had tweeted:

“Bashing someone’s faith should not be a part of any narrative. Tolerance is the first and foremost pillar on which Pakistan was built.”

Given that Chohan has been appointed as a minister again, the question arises: has PTI changed its stance regarding tolerance and plurality in Pakistan? Has the party forgotten that his statement led to severe backlash from members of his own party? Perhaps PTI only removed Chohan earlier in order to pacify and avoid the backlash from within and outside the party. One cannot justify giving Chohan another ministry since he has made it apparent that he holds little respect for the Hindu community.

Apart from the fact that PTI has repeatedly repealed its decisions on a number of matters, there is also a clear double standard within PTI when it comes to holding its own members accountable for their misdeeds. It seems counter-intuitive to bring back an individual whom the party itself chose to oust from his designated post. Evidently, PTI is unaware of this lapse in logic.

To put things in perspective, let us assume that Chohan had made a similar sort of statement against Muslims. Would PTI still have appointed him as a minister again? Evidently not. If Chohan had hurt the sentiments of Muslims, he would have been declared a blasphemer and PTI would have distanced themselves from him as much as possible. The hypocrisy in this regard is evident. PTI may state that it wishes to defend the rights of minorities, but its actions say otherwise.

Since the Hindu community in Pakistan has had its voice stifled, Chohan is free to return to office without any long-lasting repercussions and with no one to hold him accountable for his words. If Chohan is forgiven for hurting the sentiments of the Hindu community, then how can PTI accuse the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of hurting Muslim sentiments in India? Religious bigotry in Pakistan has already led to the marginalisation of minorities and many sectarian killings. Members of the Christian community are often accused of blasphemy, while members of the Hazara community are persecuted because of their religious beliefs. In a nation where religious rights are not safeguarded, Chohan’s brand of hate speech only gives ammunition to those who want to victimise the marginalised. It is time our leaders realise that their words have consequences. A country which has suffered from religious extremism for decades cannot afford to have people like Chohan in the corridors of power.

PTI must re-evaluate where it stands on this matter. A pluralistic society is the need of the hour since we must protect the social fabric of our nation and Chohan’s return sends an alarming signal to the minorities in Pakistan. Excusing such behaviour will undoubtedly set a dangerous precedent going forward. PTI must realise that the kinds of views Chohan harbours will continue to damage the reputation of the party and only breed more vitriol and negativity. One hopes that the saner voices in PTI like Shireen Mazari and Asad Umar will question the return of Chohan.

PTI needs to understand the message this will send to the religious minorities in Pakistan. Such decisions only make the party look hypocritical and uncommitted towards fostering a truly tolerant society.

Meanwhile, the PML-N has submitted a resolution in the Punjab Assembly against appointment of Mr Chohan as a minister, citing his controversial statements against religious minorities, actors, journalists and politicians.

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Pakistan News

Maryam’s interview “stopped forcefully:” Nadeem Malik

An interview of Maryam Nawaz Sharif, a vice president of the PML-N, was “forcefully” taken off air soon after it was run, it was reported on Thursday.

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Maryam Nawaz

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: An interview of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif was taken off air forcefully seconds after it started.

“Just came to know Maryam Nawaz Sharif’s interview has been stopped forcefully just [a] few minutes after it started live,” tweeted show host Nadeem Malik.

Hum News, the channel on which the interview was aired for a few brief moments, released a statement shortly after the incident, saying: “Hum News believes in a free and responsible media. Protecting freedom of expression is one of our core values. At the same time, we stand for the respect and dignity of [the] judiciary in line with our ethical values and the Constitution.”

The development comes days after AbbTakk TV24 News, and Capital TV all had their broadcasts cut after screening a press conference by Maryam Nawaz.

Authorities say the three channels were unavailable due to “technical issues”, but Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a global media watchdog, described the outage as an act of “brazen censorship”.

It slammed the local authorities over the removal of three television channels from the country’s airwaves, saying the move was “indicative of disturbing dictatorial tendencies” as pressure mounts on journalists in Pakistan.

READ MORE: Arrest me if you want to, I won’t run away like your master Musharraf: Hamid Mir

Maryam is the daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif — who is currently behind bars for corruption — and a recent press conference she hosted featured a judge reportedly claiming he had been blackmailed into convicting the former premier.

The move came as Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration vowed to block any media coverage and interviews of politicians “who are convicts and under trial”.

Earlier this month, Geo News TV abruptly took an interview with former president Asif Ali Zardari off air shortly after it began.

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Pakistan News

Several dead and dozens injured in Pakistan train collision

A collision between a passenger train and a stationary freight train near the central town of Rahim Yar Khan in Pakistan has killed at least 10 people, with more than 70 others injured, according to police and hospital officials.

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Rahim yar khan

RAHIM YAR KHAN, Pakistan: A collision between a passenger train and a stationary freight train near the central town of Rahim Yar Khan in Pakistan has killed at least 10 people, with more than 70 others injured, according to police and hospital officials.

The incident on Thursday took place at the Walhar railway station, located about 35km south of Rahim Yar Khan.

“The Akbar Express [passenger train] going from Bahawalpur to Quetta hit a freight train that was parked there at 7.40am,” a local police official told Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media.

Senior police official Umar Salamat told local media the collision took place because the passenger train was diverted onto the incorrect track at the station, hitting the parked freight train.

Rescue operations were under way at the collision site, with workers using equipment to get to some of those trapped in the train wreckage, local media reported.

The injured were taken to a nearby government hospital and to a more advanced facility in Rahim Yar Khan, hospital officials said.

Nine of the dead were taken to the government hospital, with more than 60 people injured in the wreck also treated there, Liaquat Chohan, a senior hospital official, told Al Jazeera.

“The injuries were of multiple types – many had fractures, others had bleeding wounds. Some were crushed under objects,” he said.

At least one dead body was also taken to the Sheikh Zayed hospital in Rahim Yar Khan, where 11 of those wounded in the accident were being treated, hospital official Ilyas Ahmer told Al Jazeera.

“One person’s leg was cut off [in the collision], and another is having serious chest surgery,” he said.

‘Emergency steps’

Pakistan’s aging railway network carries both passengers and goods across the country, but suffers periodic derailments and other accidents due to aging infrastructure.

A major Chinese investment in the country is seeking to upgrade the main railway line that connects the length of the country, raising speeds and safety standards.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his condolences for those who were killed and injured, and ordered Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad to speed up work on the country’s rail infrastructure.

“Have asked Railways Minister to take emergency steps to counter decades of neglect of railway infrastructure & ensure safety standards,” Khan tweeted after the accident.

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Pakistan News

Russia denies inviting Imran Khan to Eastern Economic Forum

Russia has conveyed to India that it has not invited Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in September.

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Imran Khan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan/MOSCOW, Russia: Russia has denied inviting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) to be held in eastern Russian city of Vladivostok in September.

“We draw attention to the publications in a number of South Asian media that the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Imran Khan was invited to the events of the Eastern Economic Forum (WEF-5) in Vladivostok (September 4-6, this year) as the guest of honor. We would like to give some explanations in this regard… We expect that the President of Mongolia H. Battulga, Prime Minister of India N.Modi, Prime Minister of Malaysia M. Mohammad and the Prime Minister ofJapan S. Abe will arrive in the capital of Primorye,” stated Russian Foreign Ministry.

Pakistan Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal on Tuesday also termed reports regarding Prime Minister Imran Khan’s participation in the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Russia as “speculative”.

Taking to Twitter, Dr Faisal said Pakistan and Russia remain in contact about engagement at the highest level.

“Any announcement in this regard would be made formally at [the] appropriate time,” he wrote.

Sources in the FO earlier told Pakistani media outlets that Prime Minister Imran Khan would join the EEF meeting in Russia on the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The invitation was extended by President Putin during the recently-held Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting that both leaders had attended, the sources had said.

Following the reports, however, Indian media outlets quoted diplomatic sources as saying that the Russian foreign ministry had dismissed reports that PM Imran had been invited for the forum in September, where The Economic Times said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the chief guest.

It was not clear whether the FO spokesperson was terming the reports in the Indian media as speculative or those published by the Pakistani media, or both.

His statement comes as Prime Minister Imran is scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump on July 22 during an official working visit to Washington.

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