KARACHI: Federal Interior Minis­ter Ahsan Iqbal said on Monday that Pakistan had faced many ups and downs in its first 70 years of existence but the country’s future was linked to the Constitution and democracy.

The interior minister, while talking to journalists after offering prayers at the Quaid-i-Azam’s mausoleum, stressed the need to revive the Quaid-i-Azam’s vision for Pakistan.

The general elections, scheduled for next year, will be held on time as the course of the country’s path was linked to democracy, and the system at present was functioning smoothly, he said.

Commenting on the recent declaration at the BRICS summit, he said there was nothing in the declaration that Pakistan wasn’t aware of. He stressed that China and Pakistan had the same stance regarding terrorism. He deplored that the country was facing internal contradictions and said: “we have to put our house in order”.

In a thinly-veiled reference to the opposition party Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, the interior minister said there was a popular political party whose leader was not glad to see the country progress. Claiming that the country’s economy was on the verge of collapse in 2013, Mr Iqbal asserted that the situation had improved so much that the country could now focus on promoting art and culture. He said tourism had improved the most in the country during the current government’s tenure.

The spirit and enthusiasm witnessed this year on Independence Day was unprecedented, he said. On recent reports regarding extremism on university campuses, he said, “We have to make Pakistan an Asian tiger and make it one of the best 25 economies of the world...this is only possible if we remain guarded from elements who want to push us towards confusion. Our youth is being instigated through social media but we will not allow [anyone] to disturb the peace or succeed in this conspiracy.”

The interior minister added that a youth convention was being planned in Islamabad in this regard.

By ignoring the issues faced by the Muslim world, the West was equally responsible for the proliferation of extremism, he argued. The minister announced that Sept 21 would be observed as the International Day of Peace in the country.

When he was asked if former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had met Altaf Hussain, founder of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, in London, the minister denied having any knowledge of such a meeting, and asserted that Mr Sharif was in London to take care of his wife, not to engage in political activity.

Responding to another question, he said previous governments had completely ignored exports, the country had faced the worst energy crises and there was no electricity to run factories. The country’s cricket stadiums had been haunted for a decade as there was no possibility of holding international cricket matches, he said. Now, the entire nation would witness world-class players at the World XI series, he said, adding that he hoped that international cricket would be restored in Karachi as well.

He said the federal government was implementing various development schemes in Karachi at a cost of Rs75 billion, including a Rs25bn package to improve infrastructure through the K-4 water project and the implementation of the Green Line Metro service.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2017