Armed forces, LEAs alerted after terrorism incidents: Sheikh Rashid

Published January 22, 2022
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid addresses a press conference in Islamabad. ─ DawnNewsTV
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid addresses a press conference in Islamabad. ─ DawnNewsTV

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said on Saturday that his ministry had alerted all armed forces, including civil law enforcements agencies, asking them to stay vigilant.

"Last night, the Ministry of Interior told all armed forces, civil armed forces, IGs (inspectors general of police), chief secretaries, Frontier Corps IGs and Rangers IG to stay alert and watchful," he said while addressing a press conference in Islamabad, where he spoke about the recent rise in incidents of terrorism.

After the Johar Town blast in Lahore in June last year, the minister said, another incident took place in the city's Anarkali area on Thursday. Moreover, he added, "two terrorists were killed in Islamabad" during a shootout a few days ago.

Here, he also mentioned that the Baloch Nationalist Army had claimed the responsibility for the Anarkali blast.

Recalling these incidents, he said a "surge in the wave [of terrorism]" had been observed in the country in the recent past, with terrorism incidents rising by around "35 per cent since August 15, over a course of approximately three months".

"But this cannot bring down our nation, morale, spirit and armed forces," he added. "You will see Pakistan progress," he said, adding that the country had not just lost around 80,000 lives during the war against terrorism, but also spent $150 billion on it.

The nation, he said, was prepared to bravely face the challenge of terrorism.

When asked about the progress in the investigation of the Anarkali blast, he said the authorities had a lead and were pursuing a suspect. But he refrained from sharing any more details, saying that "Indian television [channels] will [tirade] against me ... they are only able to see either Imran Khan or Sheikh Rashid."

Talks with the TTP

Rashid also spoke about failed talks between the proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the government and the Afghan Taliban's role in mediating these talks.

He said the Afghan Taliban had "played the role of a bridge" in the matter, but the talks failed because the TTP's conditions were of such nature that they could not be accepted.

The minister said, "Our doors are open for them (the TTP) if they want to approach us, abiding by the law and Constitution of Pakistan ... but if they will fight, we will fight back."

Furthermore, he said, the sentiment in Afghanistan was no longer against Pakistan.

Rashid further stated that after the defeat of Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security, India's Research and Analysis Wing in Afghanistan and of 42 international forces by the Afghan Taliban, "some small groups want to create an environment of terrorism in Pakistan."

But they would be defeated, he expressed the resolve.

PDM urged to reschedule protest march

The minister then turned his attention to the opposition, particularly the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), a multi-party alliance, that has announced a long march to protest rising inflation in Islamabad on March 23.

On March 23, Rashid said, leaders from different countries would be in Islamabad to attend an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit.

Hence, routes in the capital would be closed from March 21 or March 22.

In light of this situation, he urged the PDM to shift the march to some other day.

"Reconsider your decisions. There is Covid-19 and [then] there are international matters [that are of significance]," he said, adding that "hundreds of guests will be here to attend the OIC summit".

He suggested that the PDM reschedule its march to hold it four days before or after March 23.

"And if the opposition commits a blunder that will lead to a loss of democratic nature, it will, in fact, be their (opposition) loss," he said, "We don't intend to create any obstacles [in the opposition's way]."

He added that the government would not take any action as long as the PDM "does not take law into its hand".

When asked about the reports of efforts by some sections to push for a presidential system and the imposition of an emergency in the country, Rashid dispelled the rumours, saying that no such recommendation was moved in the "cabinet that I am a part of".

In reply to another question, he lamented and condemned the "dire state of Muslims in India".

"India is no more secular," he commented.

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