Govt asks opposition not to 'drag' national institutions into politics

Updated 22 Sep 2020

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Government ministers address a press conference on Monday. — Photo courtesy: Radio Pakistan
Government ministers address a press conference on Monday. — Photo courtesy: Radio Pakistan

Top government ministers on Monday held a press conference, a day after the country’s major opposition parties announced launching of a three-phased anti-government movement under the banner of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi asked the opposition not to "drag national institutions into politics".

"It is not good for the country, it is not in Pakistan's interest," he said.

His comments come a day after PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, while addressing the opposition’s multiparty conference via video link from London, alleged that there was “a state above the state in the country”. Breaking his over two-year-long silence, Nawaz declared that the opposition’s struggle was not against Prime Minister Imran Khan but against “those who had imposed such an incapable person” upon the nation through a manipulated electoral process.

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Qureshi noted that the coronavirus challenge was not yet over and European countries were thinking of new strategies in view of rising infection rates. "People calling for a strict lockdown now say that in January and December they will do protests and rallies so look at the contradiction," he said, referring to the opposition.

Related: Struggle not against Imran Khan but those who brought him into power: Nawaz Sharif

He said the new "enthusiasm" seen in the opposition after two years of the PTI government was because they were adamant on being given an NRO-like concession or an amendment in the NAB laws.

"They have also come to the conclusion that the cases [against them] are near their logical conslusion, hence this was a desperate move."

Rejecting the opposition's criticism of the government's foreign policy, Qureshi said "the whole world is praising the role played by Pakistan as a facilitator" in the Afghan peace talks.

He said Prime Minister Imran had highlighted the Kashmir cause at the United Nations and other international forums, terming it a far cry from the "time when the K-word was banned in the foreign ministry".

Qureshi also denied the allegation that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was being rolled back, saying his Chinese counterpart had expressed satisfaction over the pace of projects. He said China was ready to "move forward" and had entered into an agreement with the government for CPEC's Phase II.

'Don't make democracy controversial'

Information Minister Shibli Faraz said Nawaz in his speech yesterday had raised suspicions about the election process because his party was unable to garner votes in the 2018 elections and because he is "not used to a free and fair election".

Responding to his allegations, Faraz said: "The elections in which he was elected the prime minister thrice were right but because in this one he was unable to form the government, he is raising these questions."

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"When things are according to their plan, they are okay, but when the opposite happens they are not," he added, accusing the opposition of "spreading confusion and making things controversial".

The minister said "they are not helping democracy and are trying to discredit a political setup which they claim to own."

He said the opposition members could carry out election reforms if they had any objections. "Don't make the election and democracy controversial, this country has done you a lot of favours," he added while addressing the opposition.

Faraz also said Nawaz in his address on Sunday looked "hale and hearty" even though he claimed to be ill.

'PM Imran's words coming true'

In his remarks, Planning Minister Asad Umar said Prime Minister Imran had stated at the start of his government's tenure that "the opposition has everything at stake ... and when accountability moves forward they will all get together," adding that yesterday's MPC was a manifestation of the premier's "words coming true".

Giving a formal shape to their alliance with the name of PDM and demanding resignation of Prime Minister Imran, the country’s major opposition parties at the MPC, which was hosted by the PPP, announced launching of a three-phased anti-government movement under an “action plan” starting from next month with countrywide public meetings, protest demonstrations and rallies in December and a “decisive long march” towards Islamabad in January 2021.

Umar said the opposition had hoped that "the economic recession they left behind would be enough to oust the government" but the PTI government brought the country out of the economic crisis.

"Then came the global coronavirus crisis. If you look at the initial days these leaders had a lot of enthusiasm [and] some came running back from London in the hopes that destruction and devastation would befall Pakistan, and [they] would make that the basis of finishing the government.

"What I found entertaining in yesterday's speech was that the people who did not leave a single thing to criticise in Pakistan, did not mention corona or Covid," he said, adding that international bodies were praising Pakistan's response to the pandemic.

Umar also accused the opposition of "doing politics" on legislation related to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which he said had "nothing to do with a political party or person and is only for keeping us out of the blacklist".

He said the opposition had tried to directly "blackmail" the government on the FATF bills to obtain an NRO-like concession.

"But even in that they were defeated. They can't even control 200 members in the Senate and National Assembly, so their panic reached another level," the minister said, adding that the passage of the anti-money laundering law had also panicked opposition members because "their own properties are now in danger".

He said the armed forces through operations had ended terrorism in the tribal districts of former FATA while the security situation in Karachi also improved and a development package was announced for the city. Prime Minister Imran has also called for a development package to be announced for Balochistan, Umar added.

Referring to Nawaz's speech, Umar said Indian news outlets were all reporting that "he has returned to politics ... and how? By attacking the army."

He said in the current set-up, the army and the civilian leadership were working together to solve the country's problems, while there was "no doubt that the leadership is with Prime Minister Imran Khan [and] he makes the decisions".

"If this is not disturbed and if cracks are not developed, the opposition and enemy forces think that Pakistan will not be stopped on the way to progress."

"Also let me say that the way the army was attacked, you should have at least thought that the martyrs of the operation in Waziristan — which took place during the PML-N tenure — were from the army," Umar added, addressing the opposition.

He said more than 150 soldiers were martyred in the first nine months of this year while 6,000 have been martyred in total.

"But this is not a new thing by Mian sahib (Nawaz); his modus operandi is very simple — if an institution is not in his control, then he is at war with that institution, so right now the army and court are not in his control," the minister said.

He noted that Nawaz had said in his speech there had not been a free and fair election in the country's history. "You have been PM three times, are you admitting [you were elected unfairly]?" Umar asked Nawaz.

The minister also said Nawaz was "personally attacking" the chairman of the National Accountability Bureau" but reminded him that the NAB chief was appointed by the PML-N itself and not the PTI government.

'Abu bachao conference'

Minister For Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said the basic point of the "abu bachao conference (save the father conference)" was that "if the army and the judiciary are with us, there is no better institution ... but if they don't stand with us, they are very bad."

"Nawaz Sharif said the army, judiciary, NAB are very bad. So since everything in Pakistan is bad, that is why you are in London," Chaudhry said, adding that Nawaz was "the first leader who sits in expensive Mayfair apartments and tells people to come out onto the streets".

"We have to admit our mistake; the way in which he left the country, I knew he wouldn't return from day one," he said, adding that the government had demanded a Rs7 billion bond to allow to allow him to leave for the same reason but it was relaxed by the judiciary.

"It seems like he (Nawaz) has Alzheimer's and doesn't remember how he came into politics. Gen Gillani appointed him a sports adviser, and then made him a finance minister; this was his start in politics.

"They never had a good relationship with the army because when you take money outside and want the institutions to protect it, they will not."

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The minister continued: "On what basis is he (Nawaz) asking for Imran Khan's resignation? We didn't take charity from you to come into power ... Only the people of the country have the power to remove the government."

He said the entire present conflict was over the PML-N's demand to "send Maryam bibi to London", adding that "they want a relaxation in their cases."

"[Nawaz's] speech is being celebrated in India, meaning this narrative was not made inside Pakistan, it was made outside. Because if you start a movement against the institutions, who will benefit from it? The country's enemies.

"States are erected upon institutions. If you make them controversial then you make the state controversial."