LAHORE - Federal Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid yesterday launched a powerful counterattack against religious parties, saying those accusing the government of trying to convert Pakistan into a secular society are all “supporters of terrorists”.

Talking to The Nation, the minister said the religious parties were hurling threats to deflect attention from the ongoing military operation – Zarb-e-Azb which was aimed to eliminate all terrorists.

Blasting them for holding a conference at Mansoora and coming up with a charter of demands, the minister pointed out that these parties had never uttered a single word against terrorists, nor ever took out a procession against them. Also, he taunted, these leaders did not take out a rally when the terrorists had attacked the GHQ or other defence installations. They also did not participate in the funerals of the military officers and jawans or civilians killed by terrorists, he said, implying that they had sympathies only with the elements killing innocent people in various parts of the country.

On the contrary, he said, these leaders led the funeral prayers of terrorists.

“Their political boat is sinking and this is a desperate attempt by them to keep it afloat,” the minister said, clearly meaning that the religious parties are struggling for the “survival of terrorists”.

The government is determined to uproot terrorism at any cost and the religious parties are trying to weaken its resolve, the minister alleged. That the government is trying to convert the country into a secular state is just a baseless accusation the religious parties are using to cover up their real agenda, he said.

Offering various interpretations of the laws framed by the legislature, the religious parties that participated in the Mansoora moot are trying to facilitate the terrorists to achieve their goals, alleged the minister.

Under the Constitution, he pointed out, the government could not frame any law repugnant to Quran and Sunnah.

The minister argued that parties like the PPP, the ANP, the PTI and others from Balochistan that have representation in parliament have not said anything against the laws enacted by the legislature.

When pointed out that parties like the JUI-F and the Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadith that were allies of the government had also participated in the Mansoora moot and signed the joint declaration issued after the seven-hour session, Senator Pervaiz Rashid said these parties must bear in mind that they had agreed to become the government’s allies because “they regarded us as good Muslims”. Had this not been the case, there was no justification for them to become part of the coalition, he said.

The minister likened the enactment of women’s protection law to the move by the Prophet (PBUH) to save the girls being buried alive by the disbelievers. Certainly, he said, even the Prophet (PBUH) was opposed at the time.

“Religious parties should make their position clear as to whether they are with those who were burying the girls alive or the Prophet (PBUH) who was trying to save them.”

About the religious parties’ threat to launch a 1977-like movement, the minister said the government had done nothing wrong that could justify such a plan. There is no change in the government that the religious parties (like JUI-F) had joined and the one functioning at present, he said.

According to him, operation Zarb-e-Azb was the only thing irritating the religious parties. But he made it clear that the operation would go ahead as before.

He said if the religious parties had any reservations about the women protection law, they should talk to a committee set up by the Punjab government.

Asked if it was true that the rulers had assured some religious leaders that Mumtaz Qadri would not be hanged even after being convicted by the court, the information minister said he was not aware of it.

Answering a question about impact on Pak-India relations after the arrest of Kulbhushan Yadav, Pervaiz said efforts to normalise ties and restore peace in the region had received a serious setback. “It is like sowing thorns in bilateral relations.”

In his opinion the only damage control mechanism available to India lies in assuring Pakistan and the international community that in future it will have no links to terrorists. Also, he said, India would have to exchange information about terrorists just as Pakistan had done after it got some intelligence about 10 terrorists entering India after the Pathankot incident.

He pointed out that Pakistan had shown its resolve against terrorism by enacting a special law providing for cancellation of citizenship of anybody found involved in using the country’s soil for terrorist activities against any other state.

India would have to reciprocate such a move to normalise relations between the two states, he said.

Answering another question, the minister said Pakistan was continuing its efforts to bring down tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.