LAHORE: Interior minister Rana Sanaullah on Saturday warned PTI chief Imran Khan that if he brings “armed groups” to yet another long march the party is planning, the law enforcement agencies "will take action accordingly".
Addressing a press conference in Lahore, the interior minister said that the government has "more security personnel than needed" to deal with Khan's protest.
“To bring it on record, we have written to Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to provide additional personnel,” Rana said, adding that the government will use force with caution to stop the long march.
“If any group talks about attacking Islamabad, shall we lie down in front of them?” the minister questioned, reiterating that the PTI will be stopped if they bring violent groups with them.
He recalled that the PTI chief and former prime minister had accepted that such a group was present during the party's previous 'long march', held on May 25.
“If he comes with the aim to protest, I am saying this on the record, we will give them a place, give them security, and even food. But if they want to trample all over the state or head towards the Red Zone, then it is our constitutional responsibility to stop such people.”
“No one is inciting hate against Khan,” the minister said, adding that a case of staging a war against the state should have been registered against Khan on May 25.
Rana said that if the cabinet had permitted it, the government would have registered the said case against Khan.
The case against Khan could not be registered due to some reasons, the interior minister said, and added that it would not be appropriate to arrest the PTI chief for petty cases.
“I would ask the government to not let Khan gp this time. The one who attacks is responsible [for what ensues], not the defender,” Sanaullah remarked.
Sanaullah's remarks came as Khan was all set to address his party’s power show in Punjab’s Rahim Yar Khan district, in which he was expected to launch a countrywide movement to force the coalition government to announce early elections.
No such announcement was made by the PTI chief.
In his media briefing, taking a jibe at the PTI’s economic performance during their tenure, Sanaullah blamed the party for the current problems in the country. He added that the consequences of PTI’s tenure were now coming to the fore and “exposing” the party.
“There is no doubt that inflation could not be controlled; however, had we not taken tough decisions, the country would have suffered an irreparable loss,” he said.
The interior minister said that the PML-N and PPP were distant in the past, but the parties are now "sitting at the same table" for the sake of Pakistan.
Regarding the appointment of the chief of army staff, he said that the decision should not be taken in haste.
“If the name is announced prematurely under pressure, the decision will destroy the institutions,” he said, asserting that the appointment should be done as per schedule.
The interior minister also maintained that Nawaz Sharif is the leader of the party and the members "cannot impose any decision on him”.
“Nawaz’s vision is the final word,” he said, announcing that the former prime minister will return before general elections, “which will be held as per schedule in 2023”.
Commenting on former finance minister Ishaq Dar’s return, the interior minister said that the PML-N stalwart will come back to Pakistan next week.
“Financial matters will be better handled after Dar returns,” he added.
Speaking about toppling the Punjab government, Sanaullah said that the government only requires four votes to initiate change in Punjab.
When talking about the party’s organising campaign, the interior minister said that PML-N leaders Maryam Nawaz and Hamza Shahbaz will visit all of Punjab's districts.
“We will begin from October 15 and end by December,” he said, remarking that change is inevitable in Punjab which can be constitutionally brought through a vote.
“The decision to impose Governor’s rule in Punjab would be done by the cabinet or the parliament,” he said, adding that 15 people are in contact to initiate change in the province.
Meanwhile, PTI leader and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister Shaukat Yousufzai has refused to provide security to the Centre.
Speaking to journalists, he said that the federal interior minister had requested security personnel; however, “which terrorists are coming to Islamabad for which security is being sought?”
“Our security is for our province, we will not give it to the federal government. Incidents of terrorism are being reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, therefore, there is a greater need for security here,” he asserted.
The provincial minister further said that it was the federal government’s responsibility to address the problems at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border; however, "we are managing the situation".
He warned Sanaullah of “dangerous consequences” in case of stopping a democratic protest. “Your government is only based over 27km; while ours [PTI] is in Punjab, Kashmir and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” Yousufzai reminded him.