Islamabad: In a stern warning to protesting Opposition parties, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has said that court cases would be slapped within 72 hours against persons making derogatory remarks against the country’s Army.
The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an alliance of 11 Opposition parties, in recent months, has severely criticised the Pakistan Army and its interference in political affairs. The PDM has alleged that the Army installed “puppet” Prime Minister Imran Khan in 2018 through a manipulated election.
“Cases will be registered against people using foul language against the armed forces within 72 hours,” the Express Tribune newspaper quoted Minister Rashid as saying in his hometown Rawalpindi on Saturday.
The minister issued the warning a day after PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said the armed forces had taken the country “hostage” and created a “deep state”.
Fazl had said the Opposition was yet to decide whether their upcoming protest march would be to the national capital, Islamabad, or the headquarters of the Army in Rawalpindi.
Rashid said the government was ready to subvert any danger to law and order from the protests. “We will start preparations to counter it (protest) from Monday,” he was quoted in a report by the Dawn newspaper.
The interior minister reiterated the seriousness of making statements against the Army. He said a case was being registered against Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) leader Mufti Kifayatullah over his remarks on the military.
A police party had raided Kifayatullah’s residence in Tarangire Sabir Shah, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Saturday, The News reported.
However, Kifayatullah was not found and the police instead took his two sons Shabbir Kifayat and Hassan Kifayat, his older brother Qazi Habibur Rehman and brother-in-law Qari Abdul Manan in custody.
Kifayatullah, a former provincial lawmaker of the JUI-F, has been booked under Section 6 of the Constitution on charges of treason.
The Army, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 70 plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power in the matters of security and foreign policy. However, the military has denied meddling in the country’s politics. Khan also denies that the Army helped him win the election in 2018.
The interior minister also lambasted PDM chief Rehman for his political ambitions. “Maulana Fazlur Rehman should stop dreaming about Islamabad and should understand the difference between Islam and Islamabad,” he said.
In reply to a question, Rashid said the passport of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was to expire on February 16 and that it would not be reviewed thereafter.
Sharif, 70, the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) supremo, has been living in London since November last year after the Lahore High Court granted him permission to go abroad for four weeks for medical treatment.
The three-time former prime minister has been convicted in two corruption cases — Avenfield properties and Al-Azizia. He was declared a proclaimed offender by the Islamabad High Court in December.
Sharif, who is currently in London, has been attacking the Pakistan Army in his speeches at the PDM rallies.
Asked about cancelling retd Gen Pervez Musharraf’s passport, Rashid said his department had not received any such application.
Musharraf, who ruled Pakistan from 1999 to 2008, was convicted for subverting the Constitution.
The 74-year-old has been living in Dubai since March 2016, left Pakistan for medical treatment and has not returned since, citing security and health reasons.