Pakistan’s security czar has firmly denied Iran was involved in anti-Pakistan activities. The denial by Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the federal interior minister, came amid rumours that the Islamic Republic knew about the activities of an Indian spy arrested on March 3 while crossing into Balochistan from Iran.
Kulbhushan Yadav, an Indian navy commander in the service of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), confessed last week the Indian spy agency was stoking unrest in Balochistan by supporting a separatist insurgency.
“Iran has nothing to do with the activities of the Indian intelligence network. Pakistan and Iran are tied in decades-long religious, social, cultural and political bonds, and nothing can come in way of our relations,” Nisar told a news conference on Saturday. “One should not even think of Iran conniving” with RAW.
The two brotherly neighbours can jointly bring stability to the region, he said while urging the media to be ‘very cautious’ while reporting on Pakistan-Iran relations. “Iran has always stood by Pakistan in crucial periods, and one should avoid creating an impression that Iran is a facilitator of some anti-Pakistan network on its soil,” he added.
However, he said, Pakistan does have certain concerns while Iran also has its areas of concerns, particularly with regard to border management. He said cooperation between Pakistan and Iran would be made at every level, including economic, political, social, cultural and other fronts.
The interior minister said the recent visit of Iranian President Hassan Rowhani to Pakistan was quite productive but an impression was being given that Tehran was involved in activities against Pakistan. The Iranian authorities, he said, had expressed their concern over news proliferating in a certain section of the media portraying Iran in a negative manner.
Nisar also referred to his Friday’s meeting with Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Honardoost, saying they expressed satisfaction over President Rowhani’s visit. “Our ties with Iran are by no means linked with the arrest of an Indian spy,” he said and added that Ambassador Honardoost has assured Iran would extend full cooperation on all issues that ensured security and development in the two countries.
Some elements, he said, wanted to harm positive and historic ties between the two neighbourly countries as the Iranian president has termed Pakistan’s security as Iran’s security.
Nisar said the meeting between army chief General Raheel Sharif and President Rowhani was also held in a cordial atmosphere. According to the ISPR, the army chief had requested the Iranian leader to stop India from using Iranian soil to stoke violence in Pakistan. President Rowhani denied in a subsequent press talk the issue of RAW’s activities was discussed in his meetings in Islamabad.
Asked about the dichotomy, Nisar said the Iranian president could not understand the word ‘RAW’ at the news conference but later he was briefed on it. The Iranian ambassador confirmed the issue was discussed during the meeting.
Secret meeting with General Raheel
Interior Minister Nisar and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif reportedly held a ‘secret’ meeting with the army chief in Rawalpindi Thursday night. The media reported that they discussed the ongoing row between the government and the security establishment over requisitioning of the paramilitary Rangers in Punjab.
On Saturday, Nisar confirmed the meeting but denied it was ‘secret’. “We hold frequent meetings with the army chief regarding the National Action Plan against terrorism and other security issues, which cannot be dubbed secret,” he said. “It was not a secret meeting at all as we met the army chief in broad daylight.”
Musharraf’s departure to Dubai
Nisar said former military ruler Pervez Musharraf’s name was removed from the Exit Control List (ECL) on the Supreme Court orders. “The previous PPP-led government had not placed his name on the ECL, though he was nominated in the FIR of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination case,” he said.
Musharraf, who is facing a slew of charges including high treason, flew to Dubai on March 18 after the government lifted international travel restrictions on him. A day earlier, the top court had upheld an earlier Sindh High Court (SHC) verdict and directed the government to remove his name from the ECL.
“In its order, the SHC also mentioned that Gen Musharraf had no need to approach the interior ministry for the removal of his name from the ECL. According to this order, Gen Musharraf had the option to go abroad 15 days after this verdict,” he said.
Nisar said the government would have not gone to file an appeal in the Supreme Court if it was not serious in trying Musharraf for treason. “The government under no circumstances can place anybody’s name on the ECL as it involves a lot of legal processes,” he said.
Siege of red-zone by protestors
Briefing the media on the four-day-long sit-in in Islamabad, the interior minister admitted there was a lack of coordination between the Punjab government and the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) which enabled the mob to enter the capital.
On March 27, thousands of people who had earlier gathered in Rawalpindi in connection with the Chehlum of Malik Mumtaz Qadri – a former policeman who was executed for killing Punjab’s former governor Salmaan Taseer – marched into Islamabad’s red-zone and staged a sit-in. The protest ended on March 30 after successful negotiations between the government and protesters.
“An inquiry has been initiated to find out how the protesters entered Islamabad. However, no police in the world can stop a mob of five to eight thousands persons,” he said.
Nisar said the protesters had made a written commitment to the Punjab government that they would hold the Chehlum in Rawalpindi. “However, they flouted the agreement, marched towards Islamabad and turned violent,” he said. “From now on no one will be allowed to use D-Chowk like the Hyde Park. Dismantling of D-Chowk will start from next Monday.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 3rd, 2016.