ISLAMABAD: The banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is in a state of disarray after India stopped funding the militant outfit, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Tuesday.

“We should be satisfied to know with regard to the TTP that for the first time the process of Indian funding [to them] — which had been going on for a long time — has ended and at this time they are in disarray,” the minister said in a post-cabinet meeting press conference.

The meeting, which was presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan, asked India not to sabotage the peace process in Afghanistan and stay away from its affairs.

The meeting also approved promulgation of an ordinance under which parliamentarians would lose their seats if they fail to take oath within 60 days of their election.

Besides, the cabinet was told that Pakistan had assisted in evacuating over 22,000 foreign nationals from Afghanistan, both by air and road.

Briefing mediapersons, Fawad Chaudhry said the Pakistani Army and other security forces were capable enough to handle the TTP’s actions inside the country.

“Pakistan is not a weak country and possesses the capability to overcome such challenges,” he said.

“These internal challenges are not a problem for us. Our [belief] is that once they stop having a funding stream from abroad then it will be a big blow for them and the rest we will handle ourselves,” he added.

The minister also said the announcement by the Taliban that Afghanistan would not be allowed to be used for terrorism against any country was a very “positive” one.

“We think the Taliban authorities will act on this. [....] Pakistan’s top terrorists from the BLA (Balochistan Liberation Army) and TTP are sitting in Afghanistan and we want them,” the minister said, adding that, “we hope we will have cooperation from Afghanistan on this; inside the country we will look at these matters ourselves.”

He said the cabinet had asserted that India should stay clear of interference in Afghanistan as it had no border with the country.

During the former Afghan government’s tenure, the minister said, India had used Afghanistan’s land against Pakistan and “at this time too we are seeing a continuous effort visible on Indian media that the Afghan peace process is sabotaged”.

Two days ago, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had said the Afghan Taliban had reassured the government that the TTP would not be given permission to operate in Afghanistan against Pakistan.

“The government is in contact with the Taliban on the issue of some TTP members such as Maulvi Faqir Mohammad being released after the takeover of Kabul,” the interior minister had stated.

Mr Chaudhry said Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also apprised the cabinet of the evolving situation in Afghanistan, adding that the foreign minister would shortly leave for Central Asia to hold consultations.

On the issue of evacuation of people from Afghanistan, the minister said: “We are facilitating the evacuation of thousands of people of different nationalities from Kabul,” adding that, “over 3,400 people have been evacuated through airplanes, [while] around 19,000 have come through the borders so Pakistan is one of the primary stakeholders in this whole process and we are trying to create this environment so that the people stranded in Kabul can be evacuated.”

On Pakistan’s relations with the United States, he said American Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken had spoken to Foreign Minister Qureshi three times, while Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa was in contact with US Central Command’s chief.

Close consultation process between Pakistan Army’s leadership and Pentagon and Defence department was also continuing, he added.

The minister said at the moment there were two tracks underway with regard to Afghan peace process.

“One is ongoing among regional countries including Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and Central Asian states, while another standard dialogue is taking place in Doha which involves Pakistan, China, Russia and the US,” he said, adding that both tracks were going on simultaneously.

Mr Chaudhry said Pakistan was a regional power and its involvement in the Afghan peace process was crucial.

Violence against women

The cabinet held a discussion on the recent spate of violent incidents against women.

“While addressing the session, Prime Minister Imran Khan said incidents like the one at Minar-i-Pakistan were very concerning for every segment of the society,” Mr Chaudhry said.

He said a response was being seen to developments on social media so “we have decided to hold a grand debate where people from different sectors will be invited to have a discussion on social media trends so we can have some guidance on where we want to go and what regulations should be brought”.

The minister said a high-level committee comprising religious scholars, intellectuals and civil society representatives would be formed to enlighten the government on the matter.

Electronic voting machine

The information minister said Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz and Prime Minister’s Adviser on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan gave a detailed briefing to the cabinet on internet voting and electronic voting machines (EVMs).

He said the government had been in contact with the opposition on EVMs and granting of voting rights to overseas Pakistanis.

Stressing on voting rights to the expatriates, he said they had been massively contributing to the national economy by sending record remittances, which reflected that they had full trust in the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

He said it was on record that all elections in the country were marred by accusations of poll rigging in the past.

Terming PML-N an obstacle in carrying out electoral reforms, Mr Chaudhry said the party never came to power without rigging.

He alleged that the opposition parties were conspiring to deprive over nine million Pakistani expatriates of their right to vote, adding that steps being taken by the government for transparent elections were in line with the recommendation of the judicial commission formed in the wake of PTI’s demand to open four constituencies after 2013 elections.

About the future of the multi-party opposition alliance — Pakistan Democratic Alliance — he said they would continue to hold marriage ceremonies in London and build new flats for their off-springs.

“Let’s see when Maulana Fazlur Rehman will go to London to greet the newly-wed couple,” Mr Chaudhry said, adding that Maryam Nawaz also wanted to visit London to congratulate her son Junaid Safdar on his wedding.

Economic indicators

Fawad Chaudhry said the cabinet was given a briefing on the state of economy and was informed that it was stabilising due to remittances (foreign exchange).

He said the cabinet was informed that economic indicators were positive, exports had increased while inflation had shown a downward trend during the past three months.

“Prices of edible items in the international market had increased, but they had stabilised in Pakistan,” he added.

He said the outbreak of Covid-19 had put additional pressure on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab’s health sectors, adding that about 70 per cent oxygen was being used for coronavirus patients.

“If the situation persists, oxygen supply to industrial sector would be suspended and diverted for medical purposes,” he added.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2021

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