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ISLAMABAD: Ruling out the possibility of Iranian “connivance” in covert operations of India’s Research and Analysis Wing in Pakistan, Interior Minister Chau­dhry Nisar Ali Khan expressed confidence on Saturday that Tehran would never act against Pakistan.

“We cannot even imagine such a thing,” he said at a press conference.

He deplored attempts to create an impression that Iran was facilitating RAW’s actions against Pakistan.

Asked if Iran would cooperate with Pakistan in rounding up RAW agents, he said both countries were committed to addressing each other’s concerns. “We have also decided a timeframe and a mode of resolution,” he remarked, without elaborating.

He said that Iran was more than just a brother Muslim country; it was a neighbouring Muslim country, adding that political, economic, social and cultural relations between Iran and Pakistan would rapidly grow in the days to come.

Echoing the views of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the interior minister said that vested interests always wanted to create strains in relations between the two countries, adding that the matter of the apprehended RAW agent would be taken to its logical conclusion.

The Iranian president had, on a recent visit to Islamabad, said that whenever Pakistan and Iran get close, rumours like this begin to circulate.

The minister denied reports that Indian spies had been picked up from Ramzan Sugar Mills – owned by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif – but expressed confidence that all Indian spies would be apprehended.

Chaudhry Nisar said he had been taken into confidence over Rangers-led intelligence-based operations in Punjab and dispelled an impression that the political and military leaderships were not on the same page over the action.

He confirmed that he and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had met Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif on Thursday, but insisted it was not a secret meeting. “We keep meeting the army chief frequently to discuss issues related to security, intelligence and the national security plan,” he said.

Talking about the recent sit-in at Islamabad’s D-Chowk, he claimed that protesters had violated a written agreement with the Punjab government, where they had promised to disperse peacefully after observing Mumtaz Qadri’s chehlum. He admitted that there was a lack of coordination between the Punjab government and Islamabad administration, adding that it was difficult to stop a mob of thousands once they were on their way to the capital.

He revealed that an intelligence report about the protesters possible activities had been shared with the Punjab government, adding that the mismanagement that allowed protesters to make their way inside the Red Zone was being probed in Punjab and Islamabad.

He also denied an impression that the federal cabinet was divided over how to handle the protesters, saying that all decisions had been taken with consensus.

He promised action against those who destroyed public property and delivered hate speech, regretting that those who claimed to be followers of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) did not follow his example; rather they used indecent and abusive language for everyone.

The interior minister reiterated that former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf had been struck off the Exit Control List in the light of a Supreme Court judgment after being added to the list in April 2013 on the basis of an apex court order from March of that year.

He stressed that the government had appointed a public prosecutor and established a special court to prosecute the military ruler within five months. The matter was delayed in court and insisted that the government should not be blamed for that, the minister insisted.

He claimed the government could not keep someone’s name on the ECL on its own and it could be done only when a court writes to seek the placement of a name on the list.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2016