KARACHI: Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said on Tuesday that the government would seek an explanation from the director general of Punjab Rangers as to how and under whose directives the paramilitary troops had taken over the accountability court a day before.

The minister told a private news channel that an administrative inquiry into Monday’s incident — the mysterious deployment of Rangers at the Federal Judicial Complex (FJC) in Islamabad ahead of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s hearing by the accountability court — had been completed.

In an interview with Hamid Mir of Geo News, the minister said that after completing the administrative inquiry the government was certain that “civil administration was not responsible for any communication that led to this misunderstanding”.

When the anchor asked him what would happen next, Mr Iqbal replied: “We are seeking an explanation from Rangers... the DG Rangers now should explain under whose authority and whose directives they were deployed there and the conduct of local officer who was evasive and did not respond to the calls of his minister...; this should also be investigated.”

The issue was also raised at a meeting of the federal cabinet in Islamabad by minister of state for power Abid Sher Ali. “Such incidents are not acceptable,” a source quoted Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as having stated during the meeting.

Sources said the PM told his cabinet colleagues that he had taken up the issue with the quarters concerned.

In the interview, the interior minister categorically said the government would also raise the issue with the army high command. “The [inquiry] findings would be shared with the army leadership.”

He said the inquiry was not against the Rangers or the army. “We do not want any confrontation between institutions. Civil-military relation in Pakistan is at most critical fault line. Our enemy wants instability.”

Narrating the Monday incident, he clarified that he had not gone to the accountability court because of the hearing of Mr Sharif. “Being the interior minister it was necessary for me to go there since I was informed about a confrontation between civil administration and a force which is under my command.”

He said that the local commander of Rangers refused to listen to the directives of the chief commissioner and he reached there and “called the commander but nobody came for a good 20 minutes. Everybody had walkie-talkies in their hand and I mean if their DG, who is a major general, would have gone there and called his local commander he would have appeared [before him] in one minute”.

“I am the minister in charge but nobody came. Frankly, I took that as very offensive. If we want to run this country we must run as a normal country... there should be one law [for everyone],” he added.

Mr Iqbal said that he tried to avert the situation on Monday. “I contacted a security agency and the Rangers DG. Initially, no contact was made but after the incident and press conference he [the Rangers chief] was available on phone and I talked to him.”

When asked what the Rangers chief’s response was, he said: “Frankly, he did not have a clear answer... He said it was [because of] security threat.

“I think it is very important for the military leadership to take notice of this [incident].”

He said that Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had a very clear vision and he wanted Pakistan to be on the path of constitutional governance with stability. “The elements involved in such episodes to undermine civil-military relations are not doing any good to their organisation and the country.”

Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2017

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