'Who do you want to speak to if not PM Imran?': Sheikh Rashid lashes out at opposition

Published December 14, 2020
Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmed speaks to the media in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV
Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmed speaks to the media in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV

Federal Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Monday lashed out at the opposition, questioning who exactly they wished to speak to if not Prime Minister Imran Khan.

"We are an elected, democratic government and, under the leadership of Imran Khan, we will take this country forward. We don't want to close the doors for dialogue. [The opposition] says it does not want to talk to Imran. Tell us who you wish to speak to so that we can arrange it," he said while speaking to the media in Islamabad.

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The minister was referring to statements made by opposition leaders at the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) much-hyped power show at Minar-i-Pakistan in Lahore a day earlier.

During Sunday's rally, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had said "the time for dialogue has passed, now there will be a long march". PML-N's Maryam Nawaz had also questioned PM Imran's offer for dialogue through Parliament, asking who was behind the operations of the House.

"The responsibility shown by the people of Lahore [...] if children from madrassahs did not show up for yesterday's rally, [the opposition] would have had to face a lot of disappointment," the interior minister said.

"They had to face the death of their politics at the same place they used to make tall claims."

Commenting on the opposition's decision to submit leaves from parliament en masse, Ahmed simply replied: "You [are] welcome please. Do it. Do it as quick as possible.

"[The opposition] has also said that it will March to Islamabad. Please come. Islamabad is also yours [...] we will do whatever the law and the Constitution allows us to do."

Ahmed stated that the opposition had not said "anything new" at the Lahore rally. However, commenting on the speech made by PkMAP chief Mahmood Achakzai, the minister said that the remarks were "irresponsible".

"All those that lose elections develop mental health issues," he said.

The minister maintained that the opposition was staging rallies only to protect its looted wealth. "They are spending billions [on staging rallies].

"Imran Khan has explicitly said he will leave his seat but will not give the opposition an NRO. He directed me to say this during the press conference [that] the sun can rise from the West and set in the East [...] but he will not give them an NRO."

'PML-N, Nawaz's narrative has no currency'

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad later in the day, Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said the narrative of the PML-N and of former premier Nawaz Sharif no longer "has currency".

"It cannot be sold in Punjab or Pakistan," he said, adding that this was the reason that the PDM's Lahore rally was a flop.

"Listen to Maryam's speech from yesterday. All she talked about was herself, her father, her uncle, her brother, [said] Imran Khan is very bad and then the speech ended," he said, adding that there was "no agenda".

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He said that those in Parliament needed to review their current strategy. "Only a fool would consider it a weakness when the government talks about dialogue. We want [political unity] and for that it is important to sit down and talk about big issues."

He added that PM Imran has called Parliament an excellent forum for talks.

"PM Imran and the government are not going anywhere and you cannot send them away. Despite this we want the doors for dialogue to remain open," he said. However, the minister made it clear that the opposition will not be given relief when it came to their corruption cases.

'Historic rally against all odds'

Meanwhile, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, while addressing a party meeting in Lahore, said that all party workers, including Khwaja Saad Rafique and each and every MNA and MPA, deserved congratulations for Sunday's rally.

"I have seen them working day and night and you have seen that there was a sea of crowd. Whatever the government and media says, I am giving you my unadulterated feedback. Against all odds — the establishment, government, corona and the weather — [it was] a historic rally," she said.

"I was thinking during the rally that there was very little space. A lot of our workers could not even enter [...] I don't think such a successful rally has ever happened in Lahore."

She alleged that the media had "received instructions", saying that even before the rally started, some news channels had run news against the opposition's power show.

"They are panicking and they should," Maryam said, referring to the PTI government.

The PML-N vice president also thanked party members for their "support and guidance" after her father, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, went to the United Kingdom for treatment and her uncle, Shehbaz Sharif, was sent to jail after he was convicted in corruption cases.

"Not only am I thankful to PML-N MPAs and MNAs and party workers, but also to all senior leaders on the stage for the way they honoured me, supported me, and sacrificed their seniority and ego [to stand by me]. This is not an easy task. They have given sacrifices for 30, 40 years [but] they kept my trust and supported me," she added.

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