Govt won’t let Afghan refugees reach cities this time

Published July 13, 2021
ISLAMABAD: Federal ministers Fawad Chaudhry and Hammad Azhar and Adviser to the PM on Interior Mirza Shahzad Akbar pictured during a press conference on Monday.—White Star
ISLAMABAD: Federal ministers Fawad Chaudhry and Hammad Azhar and Adviser to the PM on Interior Mirza Shahzad Akbar pictured during a press conference on Monday.—White Star

• Minister says Islamabad seeks all-encompassing govt in Kabul
• PM’s aides want live coverage of high-profile corruption cases being faced by opposition leaders

ISLAMABAD: Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Monday said Pakistan was keenly monitoring the fast changing situation in Afghanistan and making all out efforts for an all-encompassing government in Kabul.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar and Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar, he said that in case the Afghans sought refuge in Pakistan, the government would not allow them to sneak into cities and would confine them to refugee camps to be established in the Pak-Afghan border areas.

“In the past Pakistan had an open 2,700km border with Afghanistan, which has now been fenced, and in case of new refugees, appropriate steps would be initiated to handle them in a systematic manner,” he added.

He said the entire world had lauded Pakistan’s efforts for durable peace in Afghanistan. “Pakistan is in contact with all Afghan parties and making full efforts for a peaceful [transition] and an all-encompassing government in Kabul,” he added.

Fawad Chaudhry said Prime Minister Imran Khan had declared unequivocally that Pakistan would be a partner of the United States in peace efforts, but not war.

Open trial

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s aides vowed that the government would never allow PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif to leave the country and appealed to Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed to allow live coverage of high-profile corruption cases being faced by the opposition leaders.

“Shehbaz Sharif should not try to escape to London and give answers about his corruption in the courts as we will not let his escape abroad,” said Shahzad Akbar said.

The adviser negated Shehbaz Sharif’s claim that he was harassed and humiliated by the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) officers who were probing Rs25 billion corruption scam against the opposition leader. “Rather Hamza Sharif, son of Shehbaz Sharif, has threatened FIA officials with dire consequences. Some of the properties of former rulers were exposed through the Panama Papers scandal, and many more are yet to be unearthed,” he added.

Fawad Chaudhry said Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif had at a press conference on Monday played up electricity and gas issues instead of explaining his position with regard to allegations of corruption against him.

“Shehbaz should answer queries about laundering of Rs25 billion abroad on forged documents, but he narrates he built Metro bus service in Punjab. When he is asked that his sons have transferred billions of rupees abroad, he says he worked on water supply schemes. When Shehbaz is questioned about billions of rupees transferred to his accounts, he says he served the Punjab province,” he added.

The information minister said the opposition leaders during haring of their cases in courts gave statements contrary to what they stated at press conferences outside. “Therefore, I appealed to the Chief Justice of Pakistan for an open trial of high-profile cases as it will help restore people’s confidence in justice system,” he added.

Shahzad Akbar endorsed the idea and said their trial should be open to the public so that the opposition leaders could be exposed.

In reply to a question, Fawad Chaudhry said the ratio of recovery in corruption cases had increased significantly during the present PTI government. “The National Accountability Bureau has recovered Rs427 billion over the past three years,” he added.

AJK polls

Talking about the forthcoming general elections in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, the information minister said ‘frustrated’ PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had abandoned the election campaign in midway while PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz would soon follow suit. “PPP has only eight candidates in AJK while PML-N has failed to field candidates in all the constituencies,” he added.

All such factors, he said, would eventually force Maryam to leave the field, thus giving an upper hand to the PTI, which was frightening them at the moment. “Out of frustration the PML-N is already making a hue and cry over what they called rigging in the AJK Legislative Assembly polls,” he added.

Fawad Chaudhry said the PML-N leader did not know the exact number of wars Pakistan and India had fought on the Kashmir issue. He claimed that PTI’s election campaign was robust and it would beat both the parties, which could not even manage to field the required number of candidates in the AJK electoral arena.

Shahzad Akbar said the government had completed all formalities for extradition of former finance minister Ishaq Dar from the United Kingdom and now it was up to the British authorities to decide the matter.

Hammad Azhar said the government had increased power production from 20,000MW to 40,000MW, but the main reason for loadshedding in the country was weak transmission system. He claimed that the issue of loadshedding would resolved soon.

The energy minister said the government had also curtailed circular debt to Rs177 billion from Rs450bn.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2021

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