ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has urged the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), the alliance of 10 opposition parties, to postpone its planned long march for a few days due to the March 23 Pakistan Day parade in the federal capital.

“I have asked the PDM to postpone its long march for at least two to four days otherwise an awkward situation may arise as the army and the opposition would be on road in Islamabad at the same time,” he told Dawn when contacted after a press conference on Sunday.

He said the army was coming to the capital for annual Pakistan Day parade with extra units of troops and would stay there for four to five days.

The PDM has announced that it will stage a long march against the government on March 26 to seek resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan over “unprecedented” inflation, joblessness and economic decline.

“Military troops come to Islamabad for the annual parade two days before March 23 parade, attend a dinner next day and their decamping takes two more days to return to their barracks. Therefore, I ask the PDM to shelve long march plan for a few days,” the minister said.

He said incidents of terrorism were resurfacing in the tribal areas of the country and therefore there was a high security alert in the federal capital too.

Replying to a question in the press conference, he said the government would not create any hurdle in the way of the long march. “If they (PDM) do not create any law and order situation, we will facilitate them and provide them water and other facilities,” he said, adding that the opposition could stay in Islamabad for as long as it wanted, provided it remained peaceful.

Talking about the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), he said Pakistan had met 24 out of 27 conditions of the FATF and hoped that the country would be removed from its grey list next year.

Responding to another question, Sheikh Rashid ruled out any possibility of internal rifts and cracks in Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) led ruling alliance.

Regarding promotion of tourism in the country, he said his ministry had introduced online visa. Besides, he added, it had extended validity of passport from five to 10 years and reduced its fee by 50 per cent.

Answering a question about much-awaited decision of the Supreme Court on the president’s reference seeking guidance whether to hold coming Senate election through open vote, he said: “I am hopeful that the decision of the apex court will come on Monday (today).”

To a question about alleged corruption in Federal Investigation Agency, the interior minister said all “black sheep” would be removed from the agency.

Asked about the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, Sheikh Rashid said the party would definitely vote for the PTI candidate from Islamabad, Dr Hafeez Shaikh, in the Senate polls.

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2021

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