ISLAMABAD - Minister of State for Information Samsam Bokhari has criticised the Punjab government for its policy of appeasement towards violent sectarian groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Siphah-e-Sahaba who are being allowed by the Sharif rulers to use Punjab as their base camp to plan and carry out deadly attacks against the minority communities in Balochistan and Sindh.

In a statement issued on Sunday, the minister regretted that the PML-N government is providing protection to some of the most-wanted sectarian terrorists in Punjab who are involved in gruesome killings of Hazaras in Quetta. He reminded that according to preliminary investigations carried out into the February 16 Quetta carnage the water tanker used to kill almost 100 Hazaras was assembled in the Akbari Mandi area of Lahore by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi terrorists.

Samsam regretted that even after the killing of over 200 people in Quetta in just two attacks, the Punjab government is not taking any action against the LeJ network and instead it is still trying to appease the leadership of the sectarian parties in Punjab in return for electoral success in the upcoming general elections, as had already been reported by the national press.

He said Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharifs March 2010 appeal to the Pakistani Taliban not to attack Punjab, the reported patch-up of the Punjab government with the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi for the upcoming elections and Nawaz Sharif’s decision to plead TTP’s offer of talks with the government proves that political expediency matters more to Mian Sahib than the lives of the people and the national interest.

He said SSP chief Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi had conceded during a media talk two years ago that he met Malik Ishaq in jail on Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s request to offer him a conditional release if he assures to remain non-violent for the rest of his life.

He said it had already been reported in the media that following intense backdoor diplomacy in the beginning of 2010, Ludhianvi and Shahbaz Sharif had a clandestine meeting in Makkah to sort out their long-drawn-out differences. The bone of contention was the killing of 36 activists of SSP/LeJ in fake police encounters by the provincial government of Shahbaz in 1999 when Nawaz Sharif was the premier. Shahbaz, who had been named in the murder of SSP/LeJ workers, was eventually acquitted by an anti-terrorism court after the complainants had withdrawn cases against him.

Samsam said as Shahbaz and Ludhianvi reached an understanding, they reportedly swore upon the Holy Quran inside the Holy Ka’aba to bury their grievances and not to act against each other in future. He further reminded that the Shahbaz government had courted the SSP in Jhang in the March 2010 by-election on a Punjab assembly seat. Rana Sanaullah Khan chose to openly campaign for the PML-N candidate along with SSP chief, Maulana Ludhianvi. Shahbaz Sharif threw his support behind this informal alliance between the PML-N and the SSP, finally winning the by-election, he added.

The minister said although the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s founder Malik Mohammad Ishaq has finally been detained by the Punjab government under mounting pressure from the federal government, his detention seems to be a face-saving exercise by the PML-N government to ease off the pressure and it is expected that he will be set free shortly, as had always been the case in the past. He demanded that concrete action must be taken against Ishaq by the Punjab government to take him to task.