Minister hails opposition decision to defer long march

Published March 18, 2021
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed addresses a press conference on Wednesday. — DawnNewsTV
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed addresses a press conference on Wednesday. — DawnNewsTV

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has welcomed the opposition Pakistan Demo­cratic Movement’s (PDM) decision to defer its planned anti-government long march.

“It is good that political temperatures would remain down during the month of Ramazan,” he said at a press conference here on Wednesday. He said Prime Minister Imran Khan had postponed some political rallies due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

About the Pakistan Peoples Party’s decision not to resign from the assemblies, Mr Rashid said the PPP had made a political decision and Asif Ali Zardari kept his cards close to his chest. “I had wished that peace should prevail in the holy month of Ramazan and the postponement of long march has made it possible,” he said.

The minister advised the opposition to go to the assemblies and make electoral reforms. He said the opposition had only a single-point agenda of ousting Imran Khan from day one, adding that the prime minister was a “political heavyweight” and the PDM could not defeat him.

Mr Rashid said the opposition alliance faced defeat on all fronts, be it the Senate elections or the anti-government movement. He said the opposition held rallies in each and every part of the country but failed to achieve the desired results.

Replying to a question, the minister said it was a fact that there were two groups having different political ideologies within the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N). “This grouping is within the [Sharif] family whether someone accepts it or rejects it.”

He said he had no contacts with the PPP but had friends within the party. He said he had already claimed that Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman would be ditched by the other parties in the PDM.

Mr Rashid said the government was ready to issue emergency travelling documents to PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif if he wanted to return to the country, adding that the former premier’s diplomatic passport had expired on Feb 16. “However, if he wants to return to Pakistan, the government can issue him traveling documents within 24 hours under the law,” the minister said.

“Health and disease, life and death are in the hands of Allah,” he said, referring to PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz’s concerns about security threats to her father if he comes back.

Mr Rashid said Prime Minister Khan had directed that a report on the electronic voting and proposed voting mechanism for overseas Pakistanis be presented in every cabinet meeting.

About his recent visit to Qatar, the minister said he had conveyed a message of PM Khan to the leadership of the Arab country, but this could not be made public. He said the government wanted that the issues being faced by the Pakistani labourers in Qatar be resolved.

Mr Rashid said Kuwait was soon going to open visas of Pakistanis banned since 2011. “This is big news in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government as people will get employment opportunities.”

He said his ministry wanted to reshuffle those officials who had been working in the Federal Investigation Agency, National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), Immigration Department and Passport Office on the same positions for the past 10 to 18 years.

He said all overstayed officers of Nadra and Directorate of Passport in foreign missions were being called back and new officers were being sent there on the basis of performance and merit. “This decision will be implemented in a week.”

The minister said Pakistan’s visa facility for 192 countries had been made online to avoid rush in the ministry and ending corruption in the visa section.

He said the Rs8 billion Ramazan relief package announced by the prime minister was a historic one. The government is going to construct two new dams in the country, he added.

Mr Rashid said that as the government had completed half of its term in power, the prime minister had instructed all MNAs and ministers to actively work. He was of the opinion that the government’s top priority should be to control inflation. “The government will have to control the prices of at least 10 essential commodities,” he added.

Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2021

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