ISLAMABAD - Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal has said that leaders of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) were members of the electoral reforms committee which drafted the constitutional amendment in the Election (2017) Bill.
Addressing the recent controversy about the change in contents of a form regarding Khatm-e-Nabuwat (finality of Prophethood) — required to be signed by public officeholders and election candidates — Ahsan claimed that Imran’s party was part of the committee which drafted the legislation.
While rejecting the PTI’s demand for early elections, Ahsan said consultations for appointment of a caretaker setup would start soon though the 2018 general elections were months away.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, the minster criticised the PTI chief Imran Khan for his demand of early elections, saying the revised electoral rolls would not be ready before April 2018. He said the elections would take place in August 2018.
The minister was of the view that the demand of early election was unfair because no one would accept the elections, if held on the basis of previous electoral rolls.
He said that it would take time to re-allocate seats of the National Assembly on the basis of 2017 census.
Responding to questions in his informal talks about the failure of the operation of law enforcement agencies against protesters of Faizabad sit-in, he in an indirect criticism of the judiciary said issuance of contempt of court notice against him by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) led to administrative confusion.
The minister indirectly justified the much criticised role of army in brokering the deal with protesters, saying that civil and military institutions work together in extraordinary situations.
He avoided answering a question about distribution of money among the protesters released under an agreement by the director general Rangers.
“I will refer the question to the DG Rangers and ask him to make such arrangements at press clubs as well,” the minister said on a lighter note.
He also justified the complete blackout of electronic media, saying that under the code agreed with the Pemra, there was no room for live coverage of security operations and violence.
The operation was put on hold as we knew episodes of Lal Masjid and Model Town tragedies could be repeated, and helps in launching a tragedy against the government.
The issue was related to religious beliefs of the people and thus we were careful, he added.
The interior minister said that it was unprecedented for the police to have faced worst kind of tear gas shelling from the other side.
He said that there were court directions against the use of firearms, but the protesters were equipped with the same, and added that investigation were underway to this effect.
The interior minister said following the live coverage of the operation, rallies were taken out from Rawalpindi.
The minister said four PTI members in addition to Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad were members of the electoral reforms committee.
“All members of the committee gave different suggestions but PTI members, as per the Senate record, did not make any demands to change back the Khatm-e-Nabuwat clause,” he said.
He accused Imran Khan of showing way to protesters and playing politics on a sensitive issue.
Ahsan said a conspiracy was being hatched to pitch Muslims against Muslims on sectarian lines on the pattern of Iraq and Syria and underlined the need to be careful.
He alleged that Khan wanted to create uncertainty in the country for having hostility against the government.
The minister also said Khan had “conspired against democracy and future of Pakistan” in 2014 through a 126-day sit-in, during which even the parliament house and the PTV Headquarters had been attacked.
He chided Khan for giving calls of civil disobedience and lockdown of cities.
Answering a question, the minister confirmed that he held an iqama.
He said that he had an advisory role in a world-class management institution in Madina formed at his initiative, and added that he was issued the iqama to allow him frequent travelling.
The minister said he had never withdrawn any salary from the institute and challenged Imran Khan to challenge his iqama in the court of law.