Interior minister says security personnel involved in cross-border smuggling to ‘face court martial’

Published October 2, 2023
Interior Minister Sarfaraz Bugti and Information Minister Murtaza Solangi address press conference in Islamabad on Monday. — DawnNewsTV
Interior Minister Sarfaraz Bugti and Information Minister Murtaza Solangi address press conference in Islamabad on Monday. — DawnNewsTV

Interim Interior Minister Sarfaraz Bugti said on Monday that the army chief had told “his people” that security personnel involved in cross-border smuggling would face court martial and arrests.

Earlier this month, the interim government decided to launch a massive crackdown on smugglers, hoarders and illegal immigrants while also announcing a cash reward for those citizens who will provide information on these activities.

Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar had also directed authorities concerned to strictly curb the smuggling of sugar, petroleum products, urea, agricultural products and other items of daily use.

In response to a question during a press conference in Islamabad today, Bugti said: “If I say that border security forces weren’t involved in [smuggling], it won’t be right as the [smuggled] items are transported via trucks.

“Pakistan’s army chief has told his people very clearly that there won’t only be court-martials, but those involved in such activities would also be sent to jail,” he stated.

Bugti added that the accountability method within the army was not a public affair hence it did not come to the public knowledge. However, he stated that the army’s accountability system was seen in the aftermath of the May 9 violence.

Tackling terrorism

On rising terrorism, the minister said several apex committee meetings were being held to address the issue, promising that “you will see changes in the days to come”.

His statement comes as the country is reeling from deadly bombings in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in recent days.

Last week, a grisly suicide blast targeting a 12th Rabiul Awwal procession in Balochistan’s Mastung claimed the lives of over 50 people, including a police officer. Four Pakistan Army soldiers were also martyred during an operation in Zhob — which is located at a five-hour distance from Mastung.

The same day, a second bomb attack took place in KP’s Hangu, which targeted a police station’s mosque in the city. Five people were killed, and 12 were injured as the mosque’s roof collapsed in the explosion’s impact.

While a probe revealed that the Islamic State Khorasan was behind the Hangu attack, the caretaker government has claimed that Indian spy agency RAW was behind the Mastung carnage.

During the media talk today, flanked by Information Minister Murtaza Solangi, Bugti said he would address the issue of rising terrorism in a media talk tomorrow.

“We have a limited time and limited mandate and we want to fix things that are meant for daily basis. I must say we do not have any softness for anyone irrespective of how influential they are,” he asserted.

In response to a question, the interior minister said the Mastung bombing and other terror incidents were being probed. “RAW’s involvement had been found in incidents that occurred previously in Balochistan. The current bombing is being investigated and once done, we will share details including its executioners and sympathisers.”

He further stated, “No matter what kind of violence it is, our security forces have the capacity and they have won the fight against terrorism by demonstrating courage.

“I strongly believe that our enemy does not have much capacity.”

Bugti also lamented the “divide in our society” and called on ending it.

“Only the state can exercise violence and this is our consensus. There is zero tolerance for it. You will see changes in days to come,” he said, asserting that Pakistan was resolved to remove all terrorists.

“If someone wants to impose their agenda through gunpoint, they are mistaken. Only the Constitution will prevail.”

At one point, the minister also said that recent attacks were not “unexpected” because Pakistan had decided to become a “hardened state” hence the “reaction was due”.

“Terrorism is a complicated fight and they don’t have anything else except suicide bombing. State institutions have to protect every inch of the land. This is a difficult fight but not an impossible one. We will fight this,” he vowed.

Talking about poll security, Bugti said it was the government’s responsibility.

“We held a meeting with the Election Commission of Pakistan today and we will hold more meetings,” he revealed, adding that the government would request the state institutions whenever the need for security arose.

‘Nawaz Sharif’s return is encouraging’

Questioned about the return of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif — who is expected to land in the country on Oct 21 after four years — Bugti said it was “encouraging” and clarified that his statement pertaining to Nawaz’s arrest upon return was misinterpreted by the PML-N.

Ever since the PML-N announced the elder Sharif’s return, there has been discussion regarding whether Nawaz would be arrested at the airport given the cases pending against him.

It must be noted that Nawaz was convicted in the Al-Azizia Mills and Avenfield corruption cases in 2018. The cases are still sub-judice.

The elder Sharif left the country in November 2019 on medical grounds following his conviction in a corruption case but never returned. Nawaz’s departure took place approximately 20 days after the Islamabad High Court’s order, which granted him temporary relief on medical grounds in the Al Azizia case.

Earlier this month, Bugti had said in an interview with ARY News that Nawaz would be arrested if he failed to get bail. His statement was, however, bashed by the PML-N who called him out for “exceeding jurisdiction”.

Talking about the matter during the press conference today, Bugti said Nawaz was a leader who had spent years in jail along with his daughter but at the same time stated that “we will treat all citizens as per the law”.

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