Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry has said that during the tenure of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) the number of missing person cases declined and it would be "zero" in the next six months.
"Pakistan has been in situations, for example, the US had the Guantanamo Bay, and there was a huge debate whether that could happen where detention period went up to seven years. So drastic measures were taken by European countries and the US when the menace of terror crossed limits. That happened in Pakistan as well," he said during an interview with DW on Thursday.
Fawad said that the biggest number of missing persons was in the previous era – from 2013 to 2018. "During our tenure, the number of missing persons has visibly declined. In the next six months, the number will be zero."
The government, he said, is bringing out a law through which missing persons could be prosecuted. "We are taking all possible measures and the situation has improved a lot. The number of missing persons has significantly declined."
The federal minister said that Prime Minister Imran Khan is very clear on the issue of missing persons that there should be no such case without a proper legal course.
'PM Imran has turned the tide for Pakistan'
Fawad Chaudhry said that PM Imran has turned the tide for Pakistan in these two and a half years despite the opposition's rhetoric "At a time when the whole world is actually struggling due to Covid-19, Pakistan is the only country that has shown remarkable stellar."
He said that Pakistan was among the very first nations that took steps to secure its borders after the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic. I"n February's second week, we placed protocols at all of our airports. The world started very late."
The federal minister went on to say that the premier resisted a total lockdown from day one which was a big reason for Pakistan's successful handling of the pandemic. "We never had a complete lockdown. We only had partial lockdowns which were very well managed," he said, adding that the Pakistan Army fully supported the government. "However, the premier calls the shots."
To a question on Pakistan's economic growth via the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Fawad said that the PTI government inherited an economy that was in shambles. "Pakistan was literally on the brink of bankruptcy. We started taking steps from the very moment. However, the economy is far better than that at the time we took over."
He said that the Pakistani rupee is stable and due to the steps of PM Imran, the industries have been rejuvenated. "Today, Pakistan's exports and remittance are the highest than that in the past eight years. We are not putting money to stabilise the dollar-rupee parity."
'Lt Gen Asim Bajwa is one of the most competent officers'
While explaining the reasoning behind the appointment of Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa as the chairman of CPEC Authority, Fawad said that Bajwa was selected because he was the best resource the government could find in Pakistan.
"Lt Gen Asim Bajwa has served in the army but the fact of the matter is that he is one of the most competent officers to handle that task.... He knows all pros and cons of this [CPEC] project. He has served a long time, and one would like to have someone with hands-on experience."
Over allegations of "selective" accountability, he said that the present government did not appoint even lower-grade staff at the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). From the chairman to the very lower cadre, each and every individual there has been appointed either by PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif or Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the PML-N senior vice-resident, or by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)."
He said that the law of NAB was passed by PML-N in 1997 and PPP retained it. "The whole organisation was established by either the PPP or the PML-N. All the cases charged on the members of the opposition are not filed during the PTI government, each case has been filed by the two parties against each other's leaders. All investigations of these cases were completed before the PM Imran took over."
Fawad said that Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif was behind bars as he has 41 volumes of evidence against him.
"Each penny he [Shehbaz] transferred abroad in money laundering has been accounted for in the evidence.... It's just fashionable to criticise the process of accountability in Pakistan," he said and added that all cases against members of the opposition are based on merit.
On a recent report of the Transparency International regarding corruption in Pakistan, he acknowledged that it was a well-written one and should be given careful consideration. "One of the report's points pertains to the lower court judicial system in Pakistan. I think the relevant chief justices, the revenue department and the police need to get together and work out why people do not have faith in these systems. The report is spot on that," he added.
On media censorship in the country, Fawad said that Pakistan has "one of the freest media the world can imagine". The minister added that he sees no problem with the freedom of expression in the country.