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PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal berates govt for making a ‘joke’ out of defence institution

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Taking the government to task over the uncertainty sparked by the delay in the appointment of the new Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief, PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal on Wednesday said the two-week-long “drama” concerning the country’s defence institution had become a “joke” in front of the world.

Talking to reporters in Islamabad, Iqbal said: “Today the whole administrative machine of Pakistan has been rendered dysfunctional. The one remaining [effective] institution of ours — the defence institution (Pakistan Army) — the drama that has been made of it for the past two weeks is a joke in front of the world.”

“Sometimes the prime minister threatens that the [military] commander can be removed like [famous Muslim military commander] Khalid bin Waleed and sometimes he says the promotion of army commanders in Riyasat-i-Madina was on the basis of merit — which is perhaps not happening today on merit which is stinging him,” he said.

The PML-N leader quoted TV anchors as saying that defence appointments were being decided on a superstitious basis such as “according to the moon” or days that were not “unlucky”.

“This is the drama happening in Pakistan,” he remarked, adding that the country was an atomic power and yet “the world is looking at us and laughing.”

Iqbal said the country had been thrust into an economic crisis and alleged that the government had done nothing the past three years except for “pursuing fake cases” against its opponents.

Institutions were rendered ineffective one-by-one and made a “drama” of, he alleged.

According to the PML-N leader, no decision-making process was left nor was “any institution spared from their ignorance”.

Iqbal’s comments come amidst an alleged standoff between the military and the government over the appointment of Pakistan’s new spymaster. The army had announced on October 6 that the incumbent Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief, Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, had been made the Peshawar corps commander, while Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmed Anjum was appointed in his place.

But the Prime Minister’s Office has since not issued an official notification of Lt Gen Anjum’s appointment, leading to rumours about strains in civil-military relations.

After days of speculations, on Oct 12, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had said that the authority to appoint the ISI chief lay with the prime minister and that the set procedure would be followed for the purpose.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Saturday claimed that the issue of the ISI chief’s appointment had been amicably settled between the civil and military leadership. He said the spymaster would be appointed before Friday and rejected reports of a rift between the government and the military establishment.

‘Riyasat-i-Mehngayee’

In his press talk, Iqbal said the economic situation had forced the common man to scream out in distress. He termed the recent hike in petrol prices by the government an “atomic bomb of inflation” dropped on the people.

He said a further increase was expected in a few weeks in the prices of petrol and electricity.

“If you look at the gas situation, the worst gas crisis in the country’s history is coming in December because these incompetents did not do gas deals in time,” he claimed, referring to the government. “They are unsuccessful in energy management even after three years.”

He alleged that the government was only concerned with pursuing fake cases against its opponents and “looting with both hands while hiding behind the garb of honesty”.

Iqbal said the current setup was actually “Riyasat-i-Mehngayee” (state of inflation) as opposed to Riyasat-i-Madina.

“Imran Khan plays the religious card only to pull a curtain on his incompetency and failures. Religion’s name is taken so he can hide behind religious sentiments and remain safe from criticism.

“Can leaders swallow foreign gifts in the state of Madina? The question doesn’t even arise,” the PML-N leader said, criticising the government over its reluctance to divulge details of gifts given to the prime minister.

Iqbal cautioned that the country stood on the edge of a crisis, saying if the current administration was not sent packing then “the country’s problems will become insoluble.”

“That is why the parties of the PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) have decided that we will run a decisive movement and send these fake rulers home.”

‘PML-N is united’

The PML-N leader further said his political party was united and standing like a “strong cliff”, rubbishing reports of a “war of stances” within the party.

“Parties aren’t weakened by [different] stances but rejuvenated by the war of stances. [Political] parties are weakened by battles of leadership. There is no war of leadership in the PML-N,” Iqbal claimed.

“There is only one leader whose name is Nawaz Sharif and from Shehbaz Sharif all the way down to the worker, everyone accepts his leadership so these ridiculous debates which are stirred have no link to the PML-N’s unity and strength,” Iqbal said.

Read more: US envoy’s separate meetings show PML-N discord

He alleged that the PTI’s media cell was responsible for these efforts and no heed should be paid to them.

Iqbal said PML-N had served the country and now the National Highway Authority’s reports were “singing praises” of the PML-N’s projects.

“It is being acknowledged that projects during the PML-N’s tenure played an exemplary and fantastic role in Pakistan’s development.”

On the subject of election reforms, he said the opposition had done negotiations at the parliamentary level and given recommendations, but the government had ignored them.

“They give statements only to fool the people. The reality is that all the consultation done with them in national spirit has been rejected by them.

“They just want a fascist agenda and that they are able to establish a scheme of electronic rigging through electronic voting machines because they know they can’t win through actual votes,” Iqbal alleged.

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