Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Saturday vowed that action would be initiated within 72 hours against anyone found using derogatory language against the Pakistan Army and state institutions.
Rashid's remarks, made while speaking to reporters in Rawalpindi, come a day after Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said that the opposition's movement would no longer be directed only at the government but also against it's "backers".
Rehman had also stated that the alliance's possible long march to the capital "could also be to Rawalpindi". He had also said that the opposition will participate in the upcoming by-elections, but indicated that there had been no decision on contesting the Senate elections.
In today's press conference, the interior minister said that the PDM has "accepted defeat" because of its decision to contest the upcoming by-elections.
He welcomed the development as "good news", adding that no "political stage should be left vacant". Rashid said he was vindicated since he maintained the PDM would contest the elections and now "there are no resignations [...] they're not boycotting the by-elections elections nor are they boycotting the Senate polls".
Elaborating on the government's response to the PDM's long march, he said the government is ready to welcome them. He said the government does not plan to trouble anyone and will respond in kind to the PDM's actions so "democracy, [the] Constitution and the law" are not besmirched.
Addressing the problems in acquiring visas, the interior minister said that people used to face corruption in acquiring Chinese and Afghan visas. To address the issue, Rashid said the facility of online visas would be introduced.
"Manual visas have been finished and 192 countries have been converted to [the system] of online visas," said Rashid. He further mentioned that 200,000 online visa applications were registered in a day, adding that overseas Pakistanis can contact the interior ministry for complaints.
He also confirmed that the passport of PML-N supreme Nawaz Sharif would not be extended upon its expiry on Feb 16.
'Govt will not resign'
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday reiterated that the PTI-led government would not resign, despite the opposition's demands.
In a statement, he said: "Why is the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) waiting for Jan 31? We will not resign [if they tell us to] or under pressure. Prime Minister Imran Khan has the confidence of the Parliament, why would he resign on their demand?"
The public has lost interest in the PDM's narrative, he said, adding that the "five-hours" long meeting of the 11-party opposition alliance on Friday had been "inconclusive".
"They extended the decisions made by the Central Executive Committee of the PPP. Like the PPP, they also announced that they will take part in by-elections. They are saying they will decide [whether to take part] in Senate elections when the time comes but I am saying today that they will also take part in them," he said.
In his statement, Qureshi said that institutions have "always fulfilled their responsibility according to the Constitution and the law" and "nothing would come from trying to pressure them". "We are not worried about the PDM's protest. Those who are in need themselves, what will they protest?" he questioned.
People won’t pay heed to PDM protest plans: PM
On Friday, Prime Minister Imran Khan said people will pay no heed to the PDM's call for a ‘long march’ and rejected the opposition’s allegation of a ‘puppet’ premier, arguing that if it was true why he did not hold talks with them even after the military leadership had asked him to do so in order to end political instability.
In his first interview of the year with Dunya TV, PM Imran made it clear that Pakistan Army was his subordinate institution just as the bureaucracy was.
While reiterating that he would never give any National Reconciliation Ordinance-like relief to the opposition leaders facing corruption references, the PM said: “Pakistani nation takes to streets only against corruption and for their genuine rights, but this time they know PDM leaders are planning the long march only to save their ill-gotten money.”
Asked about the opposition’s one-month deadline before holding a long march against his government, the prime minister said: “I can give in writing that Pakistani nation will not come out on the streets on the call of PDM.”
Responding to another question, he said: “If I am a puppet and if the army has asked me to hold talks with the opposition then why I am not doing so.”
He said if he was a puppet, why he was not making any compromise on the manifesto of ruling PTI. “The fact is that army stands by me in implementation of my government’s manifesto. Army wants stability and progress of the country and that is why it is with me,” he said, adding that the government did not interfere in the affairs of state institutions including the army.
“I am ready to hold negotiations with opposition on important national issues. I am ready to talk but I will commit treason if I give NRO to the opposition. Whatever they (opposition) will do, I will not give them NRO,” the premier had declared.