ISLAMABAD: The government on Thursday finally decided to allow the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) to stage a protest outside the office of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) next week, but warned the 10-party opposition alliance not to take the law into its own hands.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the ministerial committee on law and order. Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed presided over the meeting.
Announcing the decision, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid expressed the hope that the opposition would respect the “goodwill gesture” shown by the government and hold protest within the ambit of the law and the Constitution.
Others present on the occasion included Information Minister Shibli Faraz, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem and Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry.
10-party opposition alliance warned not to take law into own hands
Mr Rashid said that there was a contradiction in the stance of the PDM as it was going to participate in the by-elections contrary to its allegation that the last elections had been rigged.
“They are going to participate in the same National Assembly (election) on whose election they have been objecting to,” the minister said. The opposition, he said, would also participate in the Senate elections which would be held in the first week of March.
Mr Rashid said that propaganda had been unleashed by the opposition, portraying the government as anti-Islam, and appealed to JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman not to raise those religious slogans which had the potential to create anarchy in the country.
The minister said that the JUI-F was holding an anti-Israel rally and it was trying to give an impression that a move was under way by the government to recognise Israel.
“Come what may, Imran Khan will never recognise Israel,” the interior minister said. He advised Maulana Fazlur Rehman to concentrate on Islam instead of Islamabad as “Islamabad is not your destiny”.
The minister said that the prime minister wanted all religious forces to be respected as part of his vision to turn the country into a ‘Riast-i-Madina-like’ welfare state. He said there were 560 religious seminaries in Islamabad and only 92 of them were registered. He said the government had no objection to registration of the new ones.
In reply to a question whether the PDM was going to pressurise the ECP, Mr Rashid said the PTI had presented a record of 40,000 people in the foreign funding case, but the PML-N and the PPP themselves had not presented the record of funding of their own parties.
He said the opposition wanted to take politics into a blind alley, but it would never happen.
He said the government’s nerves were strong enough and it was not frightened with the PDM’s protest. He expressed the confidence that the government would complete its five-year term.
About the prime minister’s directives that the government should make efforts to stop students of religious seminaries to participate in the protest march of the PDM, the interior minister said that a joint committee had been formed comprising Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noorul Haq Qadri and he himself and the committee was in contact with the leaders of seminaries on the PM’s instructions.
“We not only respect seminaries, but think that these are forts of religion.”
Law Minister Dr Farogh Naseem said protest was the fundamental right of any one, and freedom of expression and freedom of will as well. He said the Supreme Court in the Faizabad sit-in case had ruled that neither the sit-in nor the protest could be held anywhere and this judgement was binding on all of them under Article 189 of the Constitution.
He said the protest was the right of everybody, but it should be held within the ambit of the law of the country. He, however, warned that the law would take its course if something went beyond its limits.
Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry also spoke on the occasion and said that the present ECP had been formed after consultation with the PPP and PML-N and the last general election was not held under its supervision.
“You [the opposition] are against every institution, you give speeches against the army, against the Supreme Court and against the ECP,” the minister said and requested the opposition to spare at least one institution.
Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak said that the opposition, after the general election in 2018, had said that it would not let the National Assembly do its parliamentary work till the formation of a committee to probe rigging in the elections.
He said a parliamentary committee on rigging had been formed under his chair, but the opposition had participated only in two of its meetings.
Mr Khattak said the opposition should have attended the meetings and given evidence of rigging, but it only wanted to create chaos in the country and was not serious in election reforms.
Information Minister Shibli Faraz said the PML-N and PPP leaders should bring details and documents of their party accounts in the foreign funding case filed by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.
Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2021