No deal with opposition or Nawaz Sharif — Pakistani interior minister

Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Brigadier (r) Ijaz Ahmed Shah, speaks Arab News during an interview at his office in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Sept. 2, 2019. (AN photo)
Updated 03 September 2019

No deal with opposition or Nawaz Sharif — Pakistani interior minister

  • Shah says prerogative of National Accountability Bureau to offer a plea bargain to Sharif
  • Says tensions in Kashmir will make US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan difficult

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Brigadier (r) Ijaz Ahmed Shah said this week the government was not negotiating any kind of amnesty deal with jailed opposition leaders, including former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Sharif is currently serving a seven-year sentence imposed last year for failing to disclose the source of income that allowed him to acquire the Al-Azizia Steel Mills in Saudi Arabia.
As part of an anti-graft crusade promoted by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, there have been swathes of arrests of other opposition politicians also, including former PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and ex-president Asif Ali Zardari.
Rejecting rumors of negotiations between the government and opposition parties, particularly for the release of Sharif, the Pakistani interior minister said on Monday that no such deal was in the offing.
“If there is any deal, the government would do it through the interior ministry but we are not doing any such thing,” Shah told Arab News in an interview.
He said Sharif had been investigated by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and was sentenced by an accountability court: “This [deal] is the prerogative of NAB as plea bargain is a part of their law. If NAB is proceeding on something, I am not aware of it.”
Speaking about the conflict in the disputed Kashmir region, sparked last month by New Delhi’s move to revoke the special status of the region, Shah said the situation would make the withdrawal of United States’ troops from Afghanistan difficult.
Tension remains high in Kashmir, where security forces have used tear gas against stone-throwing protesters and the valley remains under lockdown after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw special rights for the Muslim-majority state on August 5.
By stripping Indian-administered Kashmir of its special status, New Delhi blocked the region’s right to frame its own laws and allowed non-residents to buy property there. Delhi says the change would help Kashmir’s development, but the move has angered many residents of the region and been strongly condemned by Pakistan.
In the background, Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan-born US diplomat, has led nine rounds of talks with Taliban leaders to try to reach a peace deal to end the 18-year-long war in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s western neighbor.
Shah said the ongoing conflict in Indian-administered Kashmir would harm US interests in the region, “especially their plan of withdrawal from Afghanistan.”
“If they want to leave Afghanistan and the Kashmir issue remains hot like this, then their withdrawal will not be smooth,” Shah said. “If they want to leave Afghanistan with ease then Kashmir should not be like this.”
The interior minister credited Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan with taking a “clear stance” on Kashmir, referring to Khan’s announcement before the Azad Kashmir parliament that “he would be the envoy of the Kashmiri people.”
“No other Prime Minister has ever raised their voice for the Kashmir issue like Imran Khan,” Shah said. The PM would also raise the Kashmir issue at the United Nations General Assembly session in New York on September 22 and 23 also, the minister said.
“You will see it is going to be a very big success,” Shah said. “The prime minister will try to shake the conscience of the world community.”
So far, the minister said, the reaction of the international community to the ongoing Kashmir crisis was lukewarm.
“The world community is reacting but their reaction is not up to the gravity of the situation. It should have been much more than this,” Shah lamented.
Speaking about an upcoming review by the global watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), into whether Islamabad had implemented an agreed upon action plan to counter-terrorism financing, Shah said much of what the watchdog wanted Pakistan to do was in Pakistan’s favor.
“There are certain things, almost more than fifty percent things, which Pakistan should have done 20 to 25 years back,” he said.
On a recent crackdown against banned groups and charities and organizations linked to them, Shah said the government’s writ would be established at all costs: “There is only one writ, that is the writ of the government. We have taken actions against most of the banned organizations. If some are left we will act against them.”


Pakistan ‘wants to play its role’ for peace in Middle East – FO

Updated 12 January 2020

Pakistan ‘wants to play its role’ for peace in Middle East – FO

  • Work on foreign minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United States being done
  • Pakistan’s strong relations with regional countries has made it an important player

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated on Thursday that the country was going to play its role in restoring peace in the Middle East by working with other international stakeholders in the region.

“Pakistan welcomes de-escalation and wants to play its role in ensuring peace and stability in the region. We have seen that indication in United States President [Donald] Trump’s speech and are evaluating its contours,” the country’s foreign office spokesperson, Aisha Farooqui, said in her weekly media briefing in Islamabad on Thursday.

She said that Pakistan’s geographical position, along with its strong relations with regional countries and the United States, had made it a significant player in the Middle East.

“Pakistan has maintained that war is not the solution to any issue and made it clear that it will not become part of any regional conflict,” she said.

The spokesperson noted that Islamabad had enhanced its efforts to defuse tensions in the region and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had contacted his counterparts in Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and many other important states in this connection.

“All the international players, including Saudi Arabia, have said that the region cannot afford another war and asked for restraint from both parties [the US and Iran]. It’s a collective objective of all countries to ensure peace and stability in the Middle East,” she said.

Commenting on the foreign minister’s upcoming visit to Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the US, she said that “work on these tours has already started and they will take place as soon as dates are finalized with the respective countries.”

“We are very mindful for our brotherly and friendly relations with Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other regional countries. Pakistan and the US also enjoy longstanding relations and have contacts with each other through multiple forums including political and military leadership,” Farooqui said, adding that the foreign office had established a task force to continuously monitor the situation in the Middle East and inform the government about it along with its suggestions on a daily basis.

The spokesperson expressed hope that recent developments in the Middle East would not affect the ongoing Afghan peace process.

“Pakistan hopes that progress made on Afghan peace process will not come to a halt and the world community will not lose its focus as a result of the ongoing tensions in the Middle East,” she said.

Asked about the safety of Pakistani nationals in Iraq, she said the country’s embassy in Baghdad was on the alert to deal with any emergency situation.

“We are concerned about the safety of Pakistani citizens in Iraq and have issued an advisory in this regard. We have also instructed our mission in Baghdad to remain vigilant to deal with any emergency,” Farooqui said.