ISLAMABAD - The Senate Monday strongly condemned the Lahore Badami Bagh arson attacks on Christian community, saying that blasphemy law was being misused and sought fair probe to ascertain the reasons behind such incidents amid walkout of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) over the incident.

The Upper House debated the issue after suspending the routine business of the house on a private members’ day on an adjournment motion moved by Senator Mohsin Legahri regarding the incident of torching of more than 170 houses of Christians in Lahore.

Senior PPP lawmaker Aitzaz Ahsan used the term ‘ethnic cleansing’ and said, “We want to push them (Christians) out in the name of ethnic cleansing”. The lawmakers also condemned the series of incidents that took place recently in Abbas Town Karachi targeting Shias and in Quetta victimizing Hazara community following in Badami Bagh.

They said blasphemy law was being misused to settle personal enmities and such incidents had damaged the name of Pakistan at international levels as the Islam as well. The legislators said that Qauid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah never wanted such Pakistan that was of today. They termed it the failure of the police, security as well as intelligence agencies and questioned when they had prior knowledge about the developments that led to the horrible incident why effective measures were not taken to avert it.

PML-N led Punjab government also came under criticism for the incident and they questioned why the property of Christians could not be protected when the police having the prior information about the attacks asked the locals to vacate their houses.

Some legislators viewed that a person under the influence of liquor, as reported by media, levelled allegations of blasphemy against a Christian and how his charges could be considered serious in nature.

MQM staged a protest walkout on the incident after Tahir Mushhadi of the party said that it was the government’s responsibility to protect the life and property of the citizens. He questioned where was the Punjab government, police and intelligence agencies when the attackers were busy in setting ablaze the houses and suspected that some land grabbers were involved in the incidents that wanted to deprive poor people of their properties.

Mohsin Leghari said that such incidents in Pakistan had become common phenomenon and the failure of the state was crystal clear. He lamented that the state failed to provide protection to minorities while Saeed Ghani of PPP remarked that those people should also be punished who used to misuse blasphemy law. Haji Adeel cast doubts on the veracity of the statement of a person what he said, “Who was himself drunk”.

Senator Robina Irfan suggested that the security and intelligence agencies should be questioned for their failure to avert the incident and be asked the reasons behind the incident.

“Our heads hang in shame,” said Mushahid Hussain Syed of MPL-Q what he termed an organized act singling out the Christian community for the allegation that were unsubstantiated and termed the failure of the government and the police. He said that a row between two persons led to blasphemy charges and this damaged the image pf Pakistan and Islam.

Kalsoom Perveen proposed the formation of a house committee to probe the incident while Mushahidullah Khan of PML-N protecting his party ‘s Punjab government said that construction work on the damaged houses had started, Rs 0.5 million to each affected family as compensation had been given and police officials concerned had been suspended. He said they should avoid counter attacks on such incidents and added that protests were held in London when only such incidents held in Punjab.

Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri of JUI-F said that the name of Islam was being misused though it provided no space for such acts. However, Aitzaz Ahsan gave some arguments countering Haideri and the people gathered outside mosques including famous Badshahi Mosque and Moulana says, “Don’t mention Islam”. He questioned then who were these people who set ablaze the houses and said, “Our head are down with shame”. 

The house also observed one-minute silence to condole the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez paying tributes for his service for democracy as well as anti-imperialism and sought the status from the Foreign Office whether the house could pass some condolence resolution.

ANP lawmakers raised the issue that British Council had asked the students of Balochistan to sit in the exams at Karachi or Lahore instead of in the provincial capital of the province on the pretext o security reasons. Mushahid Hussain Syed asked the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Relations to take up the matter while the chair remarked that the matter would be resolved before the house was adjourned till 10 am for Tuesday.