Pakistan’s interior minister claims there are ‘serious security threats’ to 20 political leaders, including PDM President Maulana Fazlur Rehman
Political parties comprising the united opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) will participate in next year’s Senate elections, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed predicted on Monday, warning that if they didn’t, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf would secure a majority that could steamroll any legislation without hindrance.
Talking to media in Islamabad after visiting the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) headquarters, he said the PDM’s leadership knew that if they did not have any representation in Parliament, Prime Minister Imran Khan would be able to enact legislation that would close the doors of power to “money-launderers” and “corrupt” forever.
To a question, he said that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)’s decision to approach the Election Commission of Pakistan for by-elections on various vacant seats suggested that they had no desire to resign. “Why would you contest polls just to sit in Parliament for less than a month?” he said, adding this was a clear indication of differences within the opposition ranks. He said it was even possible for the by-polls to be happening at the same time as the opposition’s planned “long march” on Islamabad.
The minister also accused the opposition of putting people’s lives at risk by staging political rallies during the second wave of COVID-19. He said the pandemic was growing more dangerous, and urged an end to any events that risked the virus spreading.
To a question, Ahmed claimed there were “serious threats to life” to 20 politicians, including PDM president and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman. He said the government had conveyed the severity of the threat to them and urged them to take proper measures for their safety.
He said there were also major threats to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects. He said the country’s armed forces, police and other law enforcement agencies had foiled several attempted terrorist attacks, crediting NACTA specifically for averting major attacks, such as the one on the Karachi Stock Exchange earlier this year.
To a question, he said he would request Prime Minister Imran Khan to allocate more funds for NACTA to improve its functioning. He also praised security agencies, saying there had been a 40 to 50 percent decline in terror-linked killings over the past three years. He said 584 people were killed in terror-related incidents in 2018, against 482 in 2019, and 357 in 2020. This year, he said, only two incidents of suicide attacks had been reported thus far.
According to a statement issued by the Interior Ministry, the minister was briefed on the functioning, organizational structure and mandated role of NACTA during his visit. “The authority is acting as a pivot for coordination and collaboration among different stakeholders, including civilian and non-civilian intelligence agencies,” read the statement, adding that NACTA has helped counter terror financing by leading Pakistan’s FATF response on international forums.
The minister was also informed that a bi-annual policy review on the National Action Plan was being circulated among stakeholders to improve the state’s response in countering terrorism and extremism, adding it had improved the response at provincial and national levels. NACTA’s Outreach Branch, read the statement, has started to engage with youth nationwide through intellectual and creative activities, including competitions.