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 transporters protest new regulation, fines

Updated 09 January 2020

Pakistani transporters protest new regulation, fines

  • Government officials say they are hopeful that the issue will soon be resolved
  • Pakistan spends about Rs50 billion for the upkeep of highways

KARACHI: A countrywide strike of transporters against a new regulation and imposition of heavy fines entered its third consecutive day on Wednesday, though government officials said they were hopeful of resolving the issue soon.

Pakistan’s communications ministry recently enforced a new axle load control regime to address the problem of overloading that can cause accidents or damage highways. However, goods transporters have been demanding the restoration of axle load law as per the National Highway Safety (NHS) Ordinance 2000.

Transporters say they have taken 400,000 vehicles off the road to protest the new regulation.

“Our drivers are fined up to Rs10,000 in the name of online verification of their licenses which are issued by government authorities. Besides, they are also fined for overloading vehicles despite the fact that the law dealing with the issue has not even been promulgated,” Imdad Hussain Naqvi of the All Pakistan Goods and Transporters Association told Arab News.

Due to the three-day strike, the transportation of imported and exported goods remains suspended at Karachi’s ports.

“The situation is very difficult as our ports are gradually chocking with inbound and outbound goods,” Tariq Haleem, Convener of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s Standing Committee on Maritime Affairs, told Arab News.

Estimates suggest that transporters move Rs40 billion worth of goods across the country on a daily basis.

“The daily transportation schedule includes Rs20 billion worth of imports and Rs10 billion in exports. The interprovincial movement also stands at Rs10 billion per day,” Naqvi claimed.

He said the per day loss to transporters was around Rs10,000 per vehicle for upcountry movement while they incurred Rs5,000 for intercity movement.

When contacted by Arab News, Mehmood Moulvi, an adviser to the maritime ministry, said that the government was looking into the problem and it “will hopefully be resolved by Wednesday evening.”

The stakeholders say the government must come up with an amicable settlement of the issue that meets international standards and the treaties signed with neighboring countries.

“Pakistan suffers by nearly Rs50 billion on account of maintenance of highways every year due to overloading. The implementation of the axle load regime will be an important step toward the implementation of regional connectivity,” Aasim Siddiqui, Chairman of the All Pakistan Shipping Association (APSA), told Arab News.

“The regime is changing and under the agreements of regional connectivity Pakistani trucks cannot cross the borders because they are unsafe. We have to upgrade our fleet under the national freight and transportation policy which also demands proper licensing. Otherwise, only the Chinese will benefit from the changing regime,” Siddiqui added.