Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmed 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 , 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,”
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”.