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.”


Pakistani short film released today to commemorate life under siege in disputed Kashmir

Updated 05 August 2020

Pakistani short film released today to commemorate life under siege in disputed Kashmir

  • ‘Article 370’ is directed by Ibrahim Baloch and tells story of a Kashmiri woman who waits for her husband to return home after India imposes lockdown in disputed Kashmir
  • Article 370 of India’s constitution granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, providing a semblance of autonomy to the region

KARACHI: Pakistani writer and film director, Ibrahim Baloch, is poised to release a short film on Wednesday about a married Kashmiri woman whose life is shattered after the administration in New Delhi abrogates Article 370 of the Indian constitution on August 5, 2019 and strips the disputed Kashmir region of its autonomy, putting the region under lockdown.

Talking to Arab News, Baloch said he wanted to release the film, ‘Article 370,’ on the first anniversary of India’s unilateral decision to integrate the internationally recognized disputed Himalayan territory with the rest of the country. 

Trailer of film, 'Article 370'

A poster of 'Article 370', a short film written and directed by Pakistani Ibrahim Baloch and released on August 5, 2020 to mark the one year anniversary of India stripping the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir. (Photo courtesy: Ibrahim Baloch)

“I started following the situation in Kashmir after India announced its decision and realized that it was primarily debated from a political perspective,” he said on Tuesday. “I was more interested in the human side of the issue. So after doing some research, I came across stories of Kashmiri women in Srinagar who gave birth during the lockdown imposed by the Indian administration.” 

A poster of 'Article 370', a short film written and directed by Pakistani Ibrahim Baloch and released on August 5, 2020 to mark the one year anniversary of India stripping the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir. (Courtesy: Ibrahim Baloch)

Article 370 of India’s constitution promised special status to Jammu and Kashmir, providing a semblance of autonomy to the region. However, India revoked the provision last year, giving Baloch the idea of working on a story on the only Muslim-majority region under India’s rule. 
Shot in the part of Kashmir administered by Pakistan and called Azad Kashmir, Article 370 focuses on the life of Gul-e-Rana, a married Kashmiri woman. 
Talking to Arab News, Mariyam Nafees, who played the lead role, said that she was deeply inspired by the story. 
“This film depicts the reality and current situation of Jammu and Kashmir,” she said. “The twenty-minute visuals in the movie that show the suffering of a family in the region are full of human emotions. Projects like these are not undertaken too often.” 
“Gul-e-Rana is a pregnant woman who goes through a tough situation while waiting for her husband during the lockdown,” Baloch said. “I am confident that this film will resonate with people across the world since it projects a human story. Our aim was not to take sides but to highlight the plight of the people by telling their tales passionately.”