Terrorists’ sleeper cells have become active in country, says Sh Rashid

ISLAMABAD   -  Federal Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said Thursday that former adviser to the prime minister on accountability and interior Mirza Shahzad Akbar had to step down because he not only failed to bring back PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif but also could not recover Pakistan’s ill-gotten money from abroad.  

The minister in an interview to a British-based media outlet also ruled out that there are any differences between Prime Minister Imran Khan and the military leadership and said that both are on the same page. He added that it was in the larger interest of the country that PM Khan and military establishment should have been on the same page. 

He said that this was the decision of military leadership that it stood by democratic government. “There can be some trivial differences and there can be a difference of opinion between civilian government and the (military) establishment but this doesn’t not mean that they are not on the same page.” 

Speaking on the unceremonious removal of Akbar, the interior minister said that the reason of annoyance of Prime Minister Imran Khan with the adviser and his consequent resignation was that not only the government could bring back former prime minister Nawaz Sharif into the country but also could not recover the ill-gotten money of Pakistanis stashed abroad. 

“Corruption of billions of rupees has been committed,” he said while referring to money laundering and TT (telegraphic transaction) scam. He said that an amount of up to Rs 4 billion has been traced from the account of each employee of sugar mills owned by Sharif family. Only the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif is facing an allegation of money laundering of worth Rs 16 billion, he said and deplored, “We cannot bring back this money into the country.”   

Sheikh Rashid said that PTI was making efforts to bring those people into the country who were either wanted by the government or courts. He said that even the government could not make it possible to bring former finance minister Ishaq Dar back into the country. He said that the government was trying to sign bilateral agreements with UK to bring back Pakistani convicts, and accused from there. He vowed that the government would bring Nawaz back. “We ourselves allowed him to go abroad. This was our mistake. He succeeded to cheat all and went aboard (for medical treatment).” 

The minister pointed out said that accountability was the major slogan of Prime Minister Khan but they couldn’t succeed to get the results to that degree that they should have achieved. It appears that the government did not prepare itself well before brining corruption cases to courts, he added. “Perhaps there was some weakness from our side but the people had voted to (PM) Imran Khan to bring thieves, dacoits, corrupt and dishonest to justice.” 

He said that he stood by his statement that PM Imran Khan has the backing of establishment rather he was asked by a functionary of the civilian government to withdraw the same. He said that he meant that policies of government and institutions were on the same page. He said that the impression was wrong that PM Khan also gave a message to establishment along with opposition by saying that he would be more lethal if forced out of office. 

Country faces spike in terrorism 

The interior minister said that the country was facing a threat of spike in terrorist incidents for the next two months but the government would overcome this fresh wave of terrorism. After fighting a long war against terrorism for over two decades, the country is capable to fight terrorism and has good system to gather information, he added. 

He admitted that sleeper cells of terrorists have become active in different parts of the country especially in border areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. He said that the law enforcement agencies were taking actions to deal with them. 

On government’s talks with banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Sheikh Rashid said that no talks were underway with the group at the moment. He said that doors of talks have almost closed after violation of ceasefire by the proscribed group. He said that the demands of TTP could not be fulfilled. “They had objection over fence (along Pak-Afghan border) and they were demanding release of prisoners who had been convicted by Pakistani courts,” he said and added, “The release of such dangerous prisoners is not possible and this is the reason that the demands of TTP could not be met.” 

On a question why TTP become activated after Taliban seized power in Kabul, he said that Taliban government was playing its positive role and it was guarantor in the talks with TTP. “Taliban are paying the role of a bridge and convincing the TTP to shun violence.” They have made a commitment with Pakistan that they would not allow anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan against Pakistan but TTP militants infiltrate into Pakistan from border and carry out terrorist activities, he also said He said that the government used to inform Taliban about these attacks besides taking action. 

Sheikh Rashid said that sometime he had a feeling that Taliban had no influence over TTP. He explained that Taliban were at war with the militant group Daesh and some militants of TTP have joined the same organization. 

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