ISLAMABAD - After facing criticism from some religious groups for his statement about seminaries, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said in the Senate on Monday that he stood by his remarks given publicly in Karachi but these were misinterpreted that put his life and his family members at stake.

“Not only my life but the life of my daughters has been put at stake,” said the information minister in an emotional statement in the Senate while giving the explanation sought by JUI-F lawmaker Maulana Attaur Rehman in the house.

“I used the remarks but only against those who are also angry with Maulana (Attaur Rehman) and not for those who are angry with me,” the information minister said while trying to pacify the JUI-F legislator. He further said that they were the same people who had attacked JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman four times.

The minister took a tough stance against the extremism and militancy prevalent in the country, receiving applause from the opposition and government benches alike.  “I did not talk about religious seminaries (madrassas) but about the curriculum being taught in Pakistan,” he said and added that the loopholes in the curriculum being taught in Pakistan gave rise to increasing intolerance in the country and as a result of which neither their own worship places nor of others remained protected any more.  “I talked about those teachings as a result of which Muslims started fighting with each other,” he opined.

“Because of that particular reason we pray amid heavy security in our country but can perform our religious practices with independence even in the countries with official religions like Christianity. I don’t have any suspicion there that some suicide jacket would explode anytime,” he said adding that he had talked in this context.

Referring to his close association with the father of Maulana Attaur Rehman, Mufti Mahmood and his elder brother and chief of the own faction of his party Maulana Fazlur Rehman, he said that Mufti Mahmood might have defended him if he would have been alive.

“But this does not mean that banners inscribed with my name as infidel will be displayed on the roads of the capital,” he said amid voices of ‘shame shame’ and thumping of desks from the opposition benches. He clarified that he did not put a question mark on Azan (call for prayer) but had talked about the misuse of loudspeakers. He questioned whether loudspeakers were not even misused in Pakistan. The minister said that he was the witness of terrorism attack on imambargahs and mosques in his own native town Rawalpindi that had been a hub of religious harmony in the past.

“And if it is a crime to speak against this, I have committed this crime. Then I am standing in front of you, you can hold me accountable,” he said and condemned the trend of self-prosecution and self-justice from some groups in Pakistan. He also gave reference to religious scholars Maulana Abul Aala Maududi and Abu Ammar Zahidur Rashidi and claimed that both have expressed similar views in their separate writings about such religious teaching.

Pervaiz Rashid said the people were incited against him and not only his life but also the life of his children had been put at stake. “But I forgive all,” he said.

Pervaiz claimed that he respected all religious scholars but had difference with those who promoted terrorism in Pakistan. I talked about the curriculum in general, he concluded amid thumping of desks from both sides of the isle.

However, his explanation could not soothe Maulana Attaur Rehman and he said the minister had involved religious elements in terrorism activities. “Whether religious people were involved in attacks against Pervez Musharraf and the minister should tell who was behind the terrorist attack on Maulana Fazlur Rehman,” he said.

Earlier, the JUI-F lawmaker sought explanation from the minister about his remarks regarding religious seminaries, their teachings and Azan. He reminded that the minister called madrassas as centres of illiteracy. He said his statement had disheartened the religious scholars and the students of thousands of seminaries in Pakistan.

“We will not comprise on the dignity of madrassas with the government,” he said. He said that madrassas were working as NGOs in the country that were providing free of cost religious education to thousands of students.”

Professor Sajid Mir wanted to speak on the issue but the chair did not allow him.