INTERVIEW: Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid | Pakistan Today

INTERVIEW: Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid

‘Imran Khan cannot be trusted’

The government will not repeat the dharna concession

Pervaiz Rashid 

Pervaiz Rashid is focus of special attention these days. He is the focal point of likely government responses to political hurdles lining up against it, and that is not just because of his ministry. The Sharifs are hardly the party’s most articulate people. And other ministers’ chest thumping did not end too well. Also, he has considerable political mileage, especially regarding the ‘struggle for democracy’, not the least because he was jailed and tortured during military regimes of Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf.

Pervaiz Rashid started his political career as a student leader from PPP’s student wing, PSF, from Gordon College Rawalpindi. He was also active against General Zia’s martial law and was one of the masterminds of the self-immolation campaign launched by him and another student leader Raja Mohammad Anwar to get the PPP chairman Zulfikar Ali Butto freed from imprisonment. Later, a military court sentenced Rashid and Anwar to 14 years in prison for the same movement in absentia.

Rashid went underground to avoid arrest and also played an active role in the MRD campaign against General Zia. He resurfaced when PPP chairwoman Benazir Bhutto returned from exile in 1986. After becoming prime minister in 1988, Benazir Bhutto withdrew sentence against Pervaiz Rashid, but did not give him any office in the party.

Later, Malik Abdul Qayyum, then PPP Punjab president, advised Rashid to join PML-N as the PPP chairwoman was not accommodating him in the party. So Malik Qayyum’s close friend, Hassan Pirzada, who was regarded by PML-N leader and then Chief Minister Punjab Mian Nawaz Sharif as a spiritual leader, facilitated Rashid’s entry into PML-N.

He was elected senator in 1997 and made Chairman PTV. He was also blamed of playing a role in getting an advertisement published in US newspapers about ‘rogue elements in Pakistan army’. He was arrested by the army after the 1999 takeover and jailed, where he was subjected to “inhuman physical torture”.

Last August, before Imran Khan’s rally started from Lahore, Islamabad’s local administration accorded permission the PTI to hold a rally in the federal capital after submission of a written agreement from PTI chief, assuring the government that a peaceful sit-in would be held on the Kashmir Highway on August 14

Pervaiz Rashid is also the only PML-N leader who is regarded a family member of the Sharifs. He enjoys equal trust and regard by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif, despite the fact that the brothers have separate friends and teammates.

He talked exclusively to DNA regarding the present political situation.

QUESTION: How does the government view PTI’s announced Nov30 rally?

Pervaiz Rashid: Though the government believes in freedom of speech and expression, and above all the right to protest, no party or individual would be allowed to breach the law of the land in the name of freedom of expression.

The government is yet to finalise its plan to handle the PTI rally, but PML-N leaders have suggested against allowing it to arrive at D-Chowk or the Red Zone. Unfortunately the PTI chairman cannot be relied upon to maintain order.

Q: What made the government reach the conclusion not to trust Imran Khan and why?

PR: Last August, before Imran Khan’s rally started from Lahore, Islamabad’s local administration accorded permission the PTI to hold a rally in the federal capital after submission of a written agreement from PTI chief, assuring the government that a peaceful sit-in would be held on the Kashmir Highway on August 14.

The PTI leader had signed a written document assuring the Islamabad administration that the workers would hold a peaceful sit-in and not even a single pot would be broken in the capital. They also assured that the PTI rally would not enter the red zone where diplomatic the corps is located and embassies of different friendly states function.

However, once the rally was allowed to enter the federal capital, Imran Khan breached all his promises and commitments made with the local administration. The PTI chairman refused to stand by his assurances of a peaceful demonstration and keeping the protesters away from red zone and not to violate the laws of land.

Imran Khan not only violated his pledges made in a written assurance but also breached all the laws by moving forward from Kashmir Highway and led the rally into the Red Zone.

Despite the fact that the government facilitated the sit-in at the D-Chowk, the PTI leader did not honour his promises to remain peaceful either. Imran Khan did not stop at D-Chowk, but allowed his workers to march towards the state buildings of prime minister’s house, parliament house and Pakistan television.

Imran Khan did not stop at D-Chowk, but allowed his workers to march towards the state buildings of prime minister’s house, parliament house and Pakistan television

Later, PTI workers also attacked buildings which are symbols of the federation, including the parliament, PTV and even the Supreme Court was not spared. Police officers and other security personnel were also subjected to torture by the violent PTI workers. Now Imran Khan would not be allowed to make another breach of contract.

Q: Why do you think Imran Khan would plan a violent rally in Islamabad?

PR: The PTI chairman seems an enemy of the poor people and he does not intend to let fruits of development reach the masses. Due to PTI’s sit-in, all the good work done by the PML-N government during the past six months to improve the country’s economy has gone down the drain. Visits by Chinese President Xi Jinping and other dignitaries were cancelled. Foreign investment has suffered due to the violent protests by PTI workers. Moreover, the price of US dollar against rupee increased from Rs98 and crossed Rs104 in the international market. Agreements with foreign governments were also jeopardised.

So, naturally, our party does not want a repeat of the events of October, which not only hurt the democratic system and state institutions, but also brought the country a bad name.

How can the government allow the rally entry into the Red Zone again, especially when Imran Khan has been threatening to hold violent protests on November 30? But the government wants to allow the PTI protesters to hold a rally away from the D-Chowk as the government believes that freedom of speech is the democratic right of all citizens.

Q: So what is the PML-N government’s strategy to deal with the rally participants?

PR: The local administration of Islamabad has once again asked the PTI leadership to submit a request and details of their November 30 rally program. But till date, no response has been received. We will take a decision once the PTI leadership comes up with their program, but the government would remain within the parameters set by the PML-N’s parliamentary party. This time around the PTI chief would not be allowed to breach his contract as no individual or political party can be allowed to derail economic gains achieved after hectic efforts.

Q: If this is the situation, why have around 100 containers been brought to the capital and why do media reports suggest that the capital city is being sealed again?

PR: There is no truth in such media reports and you can visit the capital and examine that no container has been erected anywhere. Not a single container has been brought to the city.

We have directed the local administration to play the lead role in handling the rally and all sorts of dialogue will be held between PTI and the authorities of the Islamabad Capital Territory. We have asked the capital authority not to take any risks and seek guarantees from PTI before allowing any rally to enter the city.

Q: How do you rate the claims of PTI chief Imran Khan demanding transparency from the government?

PR: The government has been transparent since day one. However, Imran Khan must also tell the nation where he was getting the millions afford his lavish lifestyle. He has submitted his tax returns according to which he paid Rs100,000 tax during the previous year. He should explain how he travels on private planes and how he affords costly living? While he points his finger at others, Imran Khan must also explain his own sources of income.

Mian Abrar

The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions. He can be reached at [email protected]



One Comment;

Comments are closed.

Top