ISLAMABAD - The government yesterday came under severe criticism in the Senate for publishing an advertisement in the national media as part of an awareness campaign about terrorism activities that showed terrorists having beard and wearing turbans.

The opposition and a government ally, JUI-F staged a protest walkout from the house following a government reply that they termed ‘unsatisfactory’.

The lawmakers said that the terrorists did not belong to a specific nationality or ethnicity and the awareness advertisement disgraced the Pashtun nationals and the religious persons, as turban was necessary part of Pashtun dress while beard depicted the person as a ‘dedicated Muslim’.

However, the government tried to convince the lawmakers that there was no bad intention behind this advertisement as it was just part of the awareness campaign.

This all started with the discussion on a call attention notice moved by PTI Senator Azam Khan Swati and JUI-F lawmaker Hafiz Hamdullah. Sawati “condemned” the joint advertisement of the federal government and Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of armed forces, published in all national dailies on February 10.

Hafiz Hamdullah said that the advertisement gave a general impression that those having beards and wearing caps were terrorists. He said that the traditional Pushtun or Baloch cap or turban was being presented as the symbol of terrorism.

Giving reference to past incidents of terrorism, he said that terrorists had also been using uniform of armed forces to attack state installations like Army General Headquarters (GHQ). “Does this mean that you should show the uniformed persons in the advertisement?” he questioned.

He also cited the example of late colonel Imam, an ex-army officer as well as a spy, saying that he also had beard and wore turban for quite some time. “Colonel Imam had said that he had been training the jehadis in Afghanistan,” he quoted the deceased’s statement and asked why his name had not been included in the advertisement.

And lastly, he said that former President General (r) Pervez Musharraf had shown his fist over the killings of May 12, 2007 in Karachi which suggested that he was a facilitator in that terrorism incident; therefore, his name too should have been made part of this advertisement.

State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab replying the queries said that the government or ISPR had no intention to disgrace the religious persons or persons of any ethnicity or region. “People in Punjab also wear turban,” he pointed out, adding that it was released for public awareness after the tragedy of Bacha Khan University (BKU), Charsada. “Please don’t suspect the intentions of the government,” he said, adding that such kind of allegations were tantamount to damage the sacrifices of the armed forces and the security personnel.

With the remarks of state minister, the opposition parties including MQM and JUI-F from treasury benches staged a token walk out from the house.