ISLAMABAD - Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said in Friday that resignations of lawmakers were being collected to sabotage Senate elections due in March 2018.

Speaking at a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior and later talking to the media, the interior minister referring to the recent no-confidence move by some provincial lawmakers against Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri said that smooth holding of Senate elections in March had become very uncertain.

Without naming anyone who was collecting resignations of provincial lawmakers, he said that an attempt was afoot to dissolve assemblies to sabotage the election of the Upper House. He said that some elements had bad designs against the democratic system.

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz will get the lion’s share in the Senate elections if held on time.

“If I ask from this committee how many people can say with finality that Senate elections would be held in March under the Constitution,” the minister said while speaking in the committee and answered in the same breath that anyone could assess the uncertainty with an answer.  He said that another condition for sit-ins was being created at a time when Pakistan was facing external challenges and any internal instability or a chaos will be lethal for Pakistan. “So in a country where you cannot say something with certainty for the next two months how can you face external challenges,” he said adding that on the other hand, “the people in this global economy were selling 10 years of stability.” He said that there was a need to understand the challenges Pakistan is facing on external fronts and these could only be dealt with unity.

Iqbal while briefing the committee, which met under the chair of Senator Rehman Malik on the implementation status of the National Action Plan on counter-terrorism, said that the security situation in the country had improved because of the proper implementation of the NAP. The last wave of terrorism was from across the Afghan border, he said adding the US was accusing Pakistan but it was a matter of fact that 40 to 60 of land in Afghanistan was not under the control of the Afghanistan government or coalition forces.

“This land is under the control of Taliban and other opposition groups. So such militant groups do not need to carry out terrorist activities there from Pakistan. On the other side, most of the recent terrorist activities in Pakistan had been carried out from the western side of the border. Coalition forces in Afghanistan have completely failed to stop this cross-border terrorism and there is some evidence that an Indian spy agency was involved in these activities.”

The minister said that the federal government was coordinating with provinces to implement the NAP. He said that provinces have agreed to coordinate for the establishment of a national database of criminals and terrorists.

“The government is facing a bigger challenge of 3.5 million Afghan refugees to control terrorism. The UN High Commission for Refugees has also decreased the compensation amount from 400 dollars to 200 dollars for repatriating each refugee,” he said.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement Senator Muhammad Ali Saif said that Pakistan has failed to sell its narrative to the world. He said that there was a need to keep our own house in order instead of blaming Afghan refugees or Afghanistan.

Senator Fateh Muhammad Hassani challenged the figure of 3.5 million Afghan refugees of the interior minister saying it was much more than this. “The figure is the same for the last 35 years.”  After hearing the senators, Rehman Malik said that the committee had a consensus that “Afghan refugees should be evicted from the country forcefully.”

National Coordinator National Counter Terrorism Authority Ahsan Ghani in his briefing to the committee on the NAP implementation said that the authority had started working on formulating the next National Internal Security Policy announced earlier for the year 2014-2018. The committee also recommended suspending a notification of the interior ministry that has suspended all prohibited bore arms licences issued by the federal government.

“We want to take the issue in the Senate for a discussion and the notification should remain suspended till the final recommendation of the House on it,” said the chair. The chair said that the lawmakers had very serious reservations on the decision of the government and many of them were facing security threats.

In the light of the earlier decision of the federal cabinet, the Ministry of Interior last month suspended licences of all automatic weapons that fall in the category of the prohibited bore. The ministry through the notification had given the January 31, 2018, deadline to all such licence-holders with the option either to get such weapons converted into non-automatic weapons or deposit the same with the district authorities.  The committee, on a question raised earlier by Senator Azam Khan Musakhel in the Senate, also recommended that the federal government should lift the ban on the sale and movement of urea in Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and FATA as poor farmers were suffering.  The Ministry of Interior opposed the recommendation saying the ban was imposed because of the use of urea in improvised explosive devices.  However, Senator Malik said that the government should make a mechanism to stop the usage of urea in IEDs but its sale and movement could not be banned for farmers. The members suggested that the government should shut down factories manufacturing urea instead of banning its sale for farmers. The committee also passed a resolution strongly condemning US President Donald Trump’s recent threats and accusations against Pakistan.