Amnesty offer only for ‘good’ Taliban: minister

Published October 3, 2021
In this file photo, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed addresses a press conference in Rawalpindi. — APP
In this file photo, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed addresses a press conference in Rawalpindi. — APP

• Rashid reveals FIA has been told to act against dollar holding

KARACHI: Defending the government move to offer amnesty to the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), federal Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Saturday said the offer was only for “good Taliban” and talks in this connection were taking place at the “highest level.”

Without explaining the “highest level,” the minister, who was talking to reporters at Quaid-i-Azam International Airport after arriving here on a two-day visit, made it clear that the offer was not for those militants who were responsible for bloodshed in the country, citing the December 2014 massacre in Peshawar’s Army Public School.

“The case of those who were involved in incidents like the APS is different. And the case of those who left the country for different reasons is different,” he said in reply to a question about the merit and mechanism of talks with the TTP. “We are not surrendering to anyone and this process is at a very early phase. No one needs to jump to conclusions at this stage.”

In a significant development, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday offered amnesty to the TTP provided the militant organisation laid down arms, disclosing that the government was holding talks with some groups of the outfit seeking reconciliation.

The disclosure attracted strong reaction, mainly from the opposition Pakis­tan Peoples Party (PPP), which questioned the move to hold negotiations with the TTP without taking the parliament into confidence, arguing that it would only add to the pain and grief of the families of the martyrs.

The interior minister ref­e­rred to the strategy of “talks and peace” and cited the gov­ernment’s intention to hold a dialogue even with India only on certain conditions.

“We are ready for talks even with India if it reverses its 2019 move of repealing Article 370 of its constitution in connection with occupied Kashmir,” he said. “We know very well who’s good [Taliban] and who’s bad. Anyone who thinks we are not aware of that, he’s mistaken, he doesn’t have sense.”

In a strong and blunt response, he ruled out the possibility of talks with the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif on extension of the tenure of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman, saying he (Shehbaz) didn’t deserve this role.

“He [Shehbaz] is facing NAB cases. Why would he be consulted?” the minister responded to a question about the possibility of talks with Mr Sharif over extension of the NAB chairman’s tenure. “He’s playing a double game. On the one hand, he’s pretending to be a strong leader of the opposition and on the other making every effort for compromise. The decision on the NAB chairman’s service is expected within a week.”

Mr Rashid also talked about the measures taken by his ministry to contain inflation and the staggering rise of the US dollar’s value which, he claimed, had already started yielding results.

“The FIA [Federal Investigation Agency] has been directed to launch a crackdown against [US] dollar holding,” he said. “And only last night, they [FIA] had recovered some three to four hundred thousand dollars in different raids. There’s no restriction on legal exchange of dollars but anyone holding it would face consequences.”

In reply to a question, Mr Rashid said the PPP leadership was intelligent as it had “boarded Samjhauta Express”, adding that the PML-N would also board the train but after “being thrashed”, adds APP.

He said controlling inflation was the top priority of the government and it had vowed to tackle the issue soon.

He said oil prices were much lower in Pakistan as compared to India and Bangladesh, adding that the prices would fall if Islamabad struck a deal with Riyadh.

Sheikh Rashid emphasised that Pakistan wanted good relations with the US and China.

Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2021

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