LAHORE - Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid alleges that Dr Tahirul Qadri is playing into the hands of foreign powers to dismantle the federal system that is keeping the country united. He believes that Imran Khan is fighting for his political survival after the defeat of his political philosophy in just one year.

The minister said in an interview to The Nation, Nawa-i-Waqt and Waqt News here on Thursday that former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was trying to save Gen (r) Musharraf by invoking a so-called agreement to which “the PML-N was not a party”.

Levelling a serious allegation on PAT chief, Mr Pervaiz Rashid said another item on the agenda of Dr Qadri is to start sectarian clashes in the country with the backing of some foreign elements who want to divide the Islamic Ummah.

The minister said the real threat to the country is from terrorists. And now that the government has started an operation against them, the foreign powers have launched Qadri as their pawn to oppose the move.

Had a revolution been the real target of Dr Qadri, the minister said, he would not have gone back to Canada after protests in Islamabad last year as poverty and other problems he is talking of at present remain the same. “He is switched on and off through a remote control (by his masters)”.

Qadri is a non-serious person but at times he touches red lines, and then it becomes imperative for the government to keep a check on him, the minister said.

He said: Sectarianism is a menace which has afflicted the Islamic world. Dr Qadri wants to promote in Pakistan what most of religious parties are strongly opposed to. It’s the duty of the intelligence agencies to provide the government information about the network of Dr Qadri’s organisations abroad and their sources of funding. The record available with the Election Commission of Pakistan doesn’t show that Dr Qadri has the resources to book special planes and carryout other activities he is involved in.

When asked what the basis of his allegations against Dr Qadri was when he was asking the intelligence agencies to provide information against him, the minister said he already had a lot of information but wanted to gather more. “If Dr Qadri takes me to court, I will be able to prove my allegations against him”.

He said: The PAT chief was leading a comfortable life in Canada when Pakistan was being ruled by a dictator. But now that a democratic government is in power and the country is gaining stability, he has come to destabilise the system. His getting active at this juncture raises many suspicions about his role. His character is marred by duplicity. He says one thing in Pakistan and quite the contrary when abroad. He tells lies.

When the minister was asked who he thinks was behind Imran. The minister said: He is a fighting a battle of his political survival. His political philosophy has been proved wrong. Imran advocated talks with terrorists, believing that this strategy would help him get political mileage. But those whose case he argued became a threat to Pakistan’s national security. They attacked important national installations, mosques, churches and schools and created a situation that the PTI chief had to change his thinking about the utility of talks. Now he is a supporter of the second option.

Imran, the minister said, also faced a serious political setback when he failed to bring about any change in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where his party has been in power for the last one year. He repeatedly claimed that he would solve all KP problems within 90 days but has miserably failed to give results in any field. He has nothing against the one-year performance of the PML-N government. But since the PML-N has outperformed him, he feels his political future is at stake.

It is for this reason, Pervaiz said, Imran Khan has now raised the issue of rigging in elections, although returning officers from judiciary had been taken on his demand. “He has always targeted the PML-N, but never held any protest in KP or Sindh. The KP was given in the National Finance Commission Award one per cent more than its due share because of its being victim to terror. The KP government should let the nation know how it spent the extra Rs20 billion it received in one year.”

On PTI’s Azadi March, the minister said, “D-Chowk Islamabad has always been the venue of Independence Day ceremony. But unfortunately during the past years the ceremony was held at the Presidency or the PM House as a result of which it lost its national colour. Now we have decided to hold the ceremony at the D-Chowk. That day only Pakistan’s flag, and not of any political party, will be seen. We will invite Imran Khan to the ceremony, requesting him to defer politicking for some other day.”

Pervaiz said, “Nobody can be allowed to try to change the government through a long march. The government can be changed only through ballot. If the tradition of change through long marches is set, there will be no end to it. I won’t say at this stage whether there will be any clash that day. I believe the civil society will not support Imran Khan on this issue. The PTI chairman should bear in mind that clashes lead to anarchy.”

He said: “It’s premature to say whether the government will arrest Dr Qadri and Imran Khan to prevent them from leading their respective long marches. Democratic means will be adopted to handle the situation. But at the same time, nobody will be allowed to take the law into his own hands.” The minister said: There’s no threat to democracy; threat is to terrorists or those nurtured by dictatorship. Those afraid of politics of service to people are feeling uncomfortable.

On ex-PM’s stand on Musharraf issue, the minister said: Yousaf Raza Gilani is trying to save former president Gen Pervez Musharraf by invoking a so-called commitment to which the PML-N is a not party. He said had there been any such commitment the former president would have taken the same to court to get it implemented. He said the future of the former president would be decided by the court.

If the ex-PM had made any commitment to the former president in violation of the law and the Constitution, the present government would not accept it. “Musharraf is in the custody of law; we neither want to implicate nor save him.” The government did not treat the former president the way he treated the PML-N leaders. Had the government been vindictive, Gen Musharraf would have been in Adiala Jail today.

Pervaiz Rasheed recalled that while in power the PPP wanted to indemnify all acts of Gen Musharraf, a move strongly opposed by the PML-N. Had the incumbent ruling party been party to any deal ex-PM Gilani was referring to, it would not have opposed the indemnity idea. The minister reiterated that the high treason case against Musharraf had been initiated on the orders of the Supreme Court, not the initiative of the present government.