Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said on Tuesday that the army is not behind the current political turmoil.
“I want to say this with full responsibility that the Pakistan Army is not behind this game,” he told a news conference shortly before army contingents took control of the security of key buildings in the Red Zone, a highly fortified area where foreign diplomatic missions are also located.
The interior minister also said that the deployment of troops was not related to a three-hour meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and army chief General Raheel Sharif, which concluded shortly before the news conference. The premier and the army chief focused their discussions on security only, he added.
“The Constitution allows the army to be deployed under Articles 131 and 245 if there is a situation pertaining to internal security. We have not called the army against any political party… [it is] to protect the Red Zone which we have international obligations to fulfill. It [the army] is undertaking a constitutional internal security responsibility,” Nisar said.
“The army will firstly guard vital installations, and other than that there will be deployment that I will not explain in detail.”
The interior minister said the government had assured the diplomatic missions that full security would be provided to them and the foreign office had given these missions a detailed briefing on Monday. Nisar said the army’s presence was part of this security enhancement.
The army troops would remain inside key government buildings, serving as the fourth tier of security, while the police would provide the first tier of security, followed by the Frontier Constabulary, Rangers and military troops. Forty thousand law enforcement personnel were already deployed in the area for security purposes.
Renewed offer for negotiations
Interior Minister Nisar also put forward the offer of negotiations to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek during the news conference on Tuesday. “We are ready to hold dialogue with both the parties,” Nisar said. “If they want, I can go to them, Ishaq Dar can go - whoever they want.” Both Imran Khan and Dr Qadri refused to meet a government-constituted cabinet committee and two separate committees formed by opposition parties on Monday.
Nisar also offered an audit of votes in constituencies where the PTI alleges that rigging took place during the May 2013 elections. However, he said the government cannot do so unless the law is amended.
“This started with the re-opening of four constituencies,” Nisar said. “We were ready to open 10, 20 constituencies. I’m reiterating that this decision doesn’t come under the government’s domain and this cannot be done without legal amendments.”
Imran, Qadri reneged on commitment: Nisar
The interior minister claimed that both PTI and PAT were given permission to stage their sit-ins in the capital after they stated that they would not enter the Red Zone. He claimed that the PTI chief had asked for his approval before moving his party’s stage a few hundred yards towards the Red Zone two days ago.
Nisar quoted a text message reportedly sent to him by the PTI leader, which read, “You have my word for it. We will not move to the Red Zone.” Nisar said, “In response, I said without a moment’s hesitation and without consulting anybody that I will give this permission at once … Your word is enough for me.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2014.