Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Monday emphasised that the Pakistan Army was “not involved” in the country’s politics in the past nor would it be in the future.
Speaking to the media in Islamabad, he questioned why the leaders of the opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) did not take the name of Gen Ziaul Haq when they talked about the alleged role of the army in politics.
“They polished Ziaul Haq’s boots. They are a product of General Headquarters gate number four. Pakistan Army is a great army. It was not in politics, is not and will not be in politics. It was with democracy, is with and will be with democracy.”
He was referring to the PDM’s power show in Larkana a day earlier in which PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said that the opposition had united on PDM’s platform to rescue the country from the government’s alleged inefficiencies and will together make efforts to end “the business of selected and selection”.
PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz also lambasted the “selected government” of Prime Minister Imran Khan, saying: “When political parties started completing their terms, some forces to whom ‘divide and rule’ suited started getting restless. Then we saw [former ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja] Pasha set up a party by collecting political trash named the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, and that party was then used in dharnas and conspiracies against your elected government.”
She said while politicians were given death sentences and faced character assassinations, those who committed much severer offences such as “breaking the country and the Constitution, losing Siachen and the Kashmir cause, violating one’s oath to interfere in politics, having political rivals killed, and committing corruption worth billions” were not held accountable.
Responding to a question about the possibility of a grand national dialogue, Rashid said the opposition had been “silent” for two years because they thought “something would come out” but when it did not happen, “they [suddenly] remembered everything.”
He said that the government would decide on its response when the PDM announced the date for its long march. “Imran Khan can take any decision. We have not held a meeting on how we will set up welcome camps for them.”
Replying to a question about the opposition’s long march, the minister said: “There is a difference between long march and lone march.”
He claimed that the opposition’s fight was “more against the NAB (National Accountability Bureau) instead of Imran Khan”, adding that all the opposition wanted was an end to the corruption cases against them.
On the matter of resignations by opposition lawmakers in the national and provincial assemblies, he predicted that the opposition would eventually “reconsider” them.
“Yesterday they said [Member of the National Assembly] Murtaza Javed Abbasi will give his resignation. You will see [him say] ‘I did not send this.'” Rashid said computerised and typed resignations were “illegal” and they should instead be handwritten.
The minister said it was up to Abbasi to decide “whether he wants to listen to Maryam” or get an inquiry done regarding who sent a resignation in his name to the National Assembly Secretariat.
“You will see there will be no resignations,” he stressed.
PDM’s only purpose is spreading confusion: minister
Addressing a separate press conference, Information Minister Shibli Faraz said the PDM’s only purpose was to spread “confusion” in the country and that they were following the formula of: “Me, my family and my wealth”.
He said the opposition’s entire campaign was being run to protect their personal interests “in which sometimes elections are talked about with no proof”.
The minister said seven soldiers were martyred in an attack in Baluchistan yesterday. “There was no mention of that in the jalsa but the criticisms rained on that institution,” he added.
“According to us, Benazir Bhutto yesterday died because of the way her enemies were brought and seated at her and her father’s mausoleum. Those who pained her all her life [and] supported taking Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to the gallows were sitting arms in arms today,” he said.
Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry termed Sunday’s rally a “moment of shame for the PPP and a warning for the PML-N”.
He alleged that the family of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif was among those that “distributed sweets” when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged.
He said the “so-called nationalists” in the PDM were making speeches against Punjab, the army and judiciary but “they have no shame that when they were in power, how much money went to Balochistan and other provinces.”
The minister said only three people within the PDM believed in the idea of resignations to mount pressure on the government: Nawaz, Maryam and JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman.
“No fourth person in the system is ready to hand in their resignation whether it’s [PML-N president] Shehbaz Sharif or [PPP co-chairperson] Asif Ali Zardari because they know you have to work within the system,” he added.
Apparently referring to Maryam and PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Chaudhry said negotiations could not be held with “children” who he said “have never read a book in their lives”.
“We invite the serious people in the parties to come and talk. The forum has been established — which is the parliament, the agenda has been established, come and talk on electoral reforms; we’ve given the format of the negotiations, if you want to change aspects you are more than welcome to but for this the serious leadership will have to come forward,” he stressed.
The minister said Maryam and Bilawal were “showpieces”, while the “real decision-makers are sitting behind; that’s why I’m saying the serious people should come forward”.