ISLAMABAD - Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Monday expressed his ‘deep concerns’ over reports of law enforcement agencies that students of universities have been found affiliated with militant organisations.

The minister gave these remarks while presiding over a meeting at the Higher Education Commission (HEC) on the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) here in Islamabad. Seventy vice-chancellors of universities participated in the meeting through live video conferencing.

The minister said that this following a report of the Karachi police that the mastermind of the terrorist attack on MQM leader Khawaja Izharul Hassan was affiliated with a newly emerged militant outfit Ansar-ul-Sharia Pakistan (ASP) and was a student of the Karachi University.

The minister laid emphasis that they had to formulate a national narrative to counter the extremists’ agenda. In this connection, he said the youth must be imparted with the importance of peace enjoined by Islamic injunctions and the vision of Pakistan.

The minister also said the government was devising a curriculum for “Friday sermons” that would be mainly based on educating the citizens about practical life in the light of Quran and Hadith.

Iqbal said the youth has tilted towards the social media and after the information revolution; the battle of ideologies was underway on the social media. “It is our duty to undertake collective efforts to prevent our youth from the accessibility of the online material based on extremist ideologies. We have to ensure that our youth uses the social media only for educational and healthy activities,” he said.

On the importance of participation in students’ politics, the minister said the students must be given opportunities to express their thoughts. “The universities must play their due role in the construction of thought and ideology amongst the students.”

The minister also asserted that the students in the universities must also be provided with the forum to hone their leadership skills. In every university, career counselling mechanism must be formed to evaluate the potential of students for better avenues in the future, he added.

“The students must be enjoined to tolerate the difference of opinion of their peers and the society.”

Talking on the upcoming International Peace Day on September 21, the minister emphasised to celebrate it with fervour in all universities of Pakistan. He said the day must be marked in every university with the resolve to spread the message of peace among our youth and apprise them of the counter-narrative against extremism.

Separately, the interior minister while speaking to the media after attending a ceremony of Asia Peace Festival organized by Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA) said that Pakistan was committed to peace in the region and would not allow anybody to use its soil for terrorism."Pakistan does not want that its land is used against any other country, or any other country uses its land against Pakistan."  

To a question, he said the government was working in coordination with the Afghan government to promote regional peace. In certain cases, he said, condemned prisoners in jails were used to defame Pakistan.

The minister said Pakistan would lodge a protest and use diplomatic sources if others committed terrorism against it. He said only a strong economy would ensure a strong defence for Pakistan.

Development and improved standard of living was not possible without peace, stability, and harmony, Ahsan said adding the world had entered the information age and countries were competing for economic ascendancy."If there is a conflict, then the development process gets stalled in the country."

He said Pakistan had defeated terrorism and now its economy, sports activities, and tourism were being revived.

The minister said the by-elections in NA-120 in Lahore was a victory for democracy. People voted for the agenda of development and not for those who wanted to create chaos in the country, he said. He said that the people expressed confidence in the leadership of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

"In the past, the country was facing up to 20-hour long electricity shortages. Now electricity is available 20 hours a day."

The minister said the PML-N had reservations over the way elections were held in Lahore, adding he had sought a report from the institutions about the kidnapping of PML-N workers by “anti-democratic forces”. He congratulated the PNCA and organisers of Asian Film Festival for arranging a film festival in which thousands of films were presented for screening by filmmakers of 30 countries.