03/30/2016, 13.52
PAKISTAN
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Lahore: Muslims and Christians call for action against terrorism, promises are not enough

by Shafique Khokhar

Journalists and activists criticise Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s speech after the Easter attack. For them, terrorists “are not afraid of slogans”. Public opinion wants more action, less talk, like the implementation of the National Action Plan. Military operations in Punjab are a failure.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Pakistani public opinion has coolly received Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s statement about the Lahore massacre in Punjab. Most ordinary Pakistanis are now waiting to see whether actions will follow the customary mourning and verbal condemnations of terrorism and boost security in the country after several Taliban attacks in recent months.

In his Monday speech, Mr Sharif said that " Those who are fomenting terrorism, sectarian hatred and extremism will not be allowed to flee and will face justice.” He added that the government would not rest until they have avenged “every last drop of countrymen’s blood”.

“The terrorists,” he explained, “being deprived of their refuges and training centres, have now resorted to targeting soft targets such as parks and schools.” At the same time, the prime minister reiterated that although Islam is a religion of peace that teaches not to endanger the lives of others, "Any leniency in this regard should not be construed as weakness of the state and helplessness of the law enforcement agencies”.

"We do not doubt Nawaz Sharif’s sincerity and good intentions, but it is important that words are translated into action,” said Samson Salamat, a Christian human rights activist.

“We have already heard such emotional speeches, but unfortunately the government’s National Action Plan (NAP) is not working when it comes to dealing with terrorist groups that threaten our cities. So far, in 2016, Pakistan has paid the price of hundreds of innocent lives. The attack at Khan University, on the bus in Peshawar and previous violence in Lahore show what the government has done so far."

According Humza Arshad, a liberal Muslim educator, "in his speech, the Prime Minister slammed those who protested against the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, saying that no one is allowed to spread anarchy in the country. However, we expected tough measures from him. Warnings and promises will not change things. We have had enough and we have seen that murderers are not afraid of slogans. On the whole, his speech gives a semblance of action only with respect to military operations in Punjab".

Meanwhile, four the past four days, hundreds of Islamic extremists have been protesting in front of the parliament building in Islamabad. They demand the implementation of Sharia and the hanging of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother sentenced to death for blasphemy five years ago and still waiting for her appeal to be heard.

The protest began a month after Mumtaz Qadri’s death. The latter is revered as a hero for killing Punjab Governor Salma Taseer, who had defended Asia Bibi. After doing nothing for a while, the military began clearing the square today, but the protesters said they were "ready to die" rather than stop the protest.

Inam Rana, a London-based Muslim journalist, noted a number of errors by Nawaz Sharif’s government. “The prime minister overlooked developments in Islamabad where a few thousand people have taken over the city and the civilian government had to call the army in," he explained. "The pm further failed in the military operation that started in Punjab.”

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