Abbasi On PTM: Deal With It Politically, Listen To The People, Don’t Declare Them Traitors
In an interview before his arrest, PML-N senior vice-president Shahid Khaqan Abbasi answers various questions about his tenure as prime minister, current political situation and the future prospects.
Q: Where do you see yourself in the coming weeks? International media has started picking up rumours of your potential arrest in the LNG case?
SKA: I see myself in jail though there is no reason to arrest me. There is no case against me, but if somebody is hell bent on arresting me, they are more than welcome to do so. I have seen this in the past. This is not something new. I was arrested in the hijacking case after the military coup in 1999 and now everyone knows the substance in that case.
Q: I saw a very interesting book in your library ‘Mein Kampf’ Hitler’s biography. Are you studying fascism these keeping in mind this regime’s protruding fascist tendencies and that this might help dealing with them?
SKA: No! Those are the books that somebody gave me. Those are just to fill the shelf.
Q: Cabinet member Faisal Vawda said that “hang five thousand people to fix Pakistan”. Is that a way to fix Pakistan?
SKA: I don’t know. One minister thinks so and may be the prime minister also thinks the same way. At first, you need to know who Faisal Vawda is. Find that out, only then you will know what he said and why he said that.
Q: What was your most interesting moment as prime minister?
SKA: There are not any interesting moments. There are always challenges and difficulties.
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Q: How are your relations with military high command now?
SKA: On personal level, I have very good relations with everyone.
Q: Did you meet General Bajwa?
SKA: After leaving office, I didn’t meet him.
Q: Do you approve of nuclear technology?
SKA: As far as nuclear technology for Defence purposes is concerned, we were forced to acquire it. India left us with no option. It was perhaps our biggest achievement as a nation and also a technological achievement.
Q: But military technology’s success never translated into civilian technology success that could have uplifted the standard of living of the people of Pakistan?
SKA: These are the questions that we need answers for as a nation. That is why I proposed documentation of truth, starting from 1947 to see what exactly happened.
Q: So you think by doing that we can bring substantial change in the country?
SKA: It will provide us the basis to make better decisions in the future. Right now we are condemned to repeat the past. Again and again we do the same thing, we suffer the same consequences and then we are sorry about it.
Q: Now let’s discuss this India policy. How were you dealing with Modi?
SKA: We were dealing in a way that Modi flew on his plane and landed in Lahore to visit Mian Nawaz Sharif, while now you were begging him to fly over us to visit Bishkek and he refused. Your present government is begging him to meet and he is not responding. Now which government’s policy is effective, it is for you to decide.
Q: How do you see defence budget cuts made by this government?
SKA: If you have a weakness, you have a weakness. If you are economically weak, you are militarily weak as well. There are no defence cuts, we cannot afford defence cuts. Even if you made defence cuts, you don’t advertise defence cuts.
Q: Is this a military man’s son talking or former the Prime Minister of Pakistan?
SKA: No! This is former Prime Minister of Pakistan talking. There are things that should be kept confidential. If you are so weak that you have to make a defence cut, you don’t advertise it.
Q: There is a movement going on in the peripheries – ‘Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement’. I met Senator Gen Qayyum of your party and he said the movement is funded from abroad. How can we handle the deteriorating situation?
SKA: Deal with it politically. Listen to people. Don’t declare them traitors. I am yet to come across a Pashtun who is a traitor. It is a political movement. Do they have guns? Did they attack anybody? Have they attacked any military installation? Have anyone seen them with guns. If not then what is it? There is grievance. There are demands. They just want to be part of the political process. That area is not outside Pakistan now. It is now part of KP province constitutionally. Let the KP government handle it.
Q: Military thinks that if PTM does one rally in the tribal belt, PM Imran Khan and PTI should go there and hold two in response to give a counter political narrative. What is your take on it?
SKA: I agree. Not two, he should hold ten rallies. It is a political battle and it all depends on who is able to win hearts and minds of the people.
Q: Is that a solution to the problem?
SKA: What is the problem?
Q: PTM claims that there are mines in the area and army misbehaves with the people there.
SKA: Mines are there, remove them. It is time to withdraw military from the area. Let the KP government take over that area. Army should go to the borders. It is not designed to run towns and check posts. That is not their job. There was a deed and that deed is over. Let the KP government take over.
Q: Don’t you think that military has gotten used to running the area the way it has been running in the past?
SKA: Gotten used to what? Running check posts? Being attacked by IEDs? You see military has a job under constitution as required by the government and if the government of the day thinks that they are not required they should withdraw them. It is the government that has failed.
The writer is a Political Activist and a Research Analyst based in Lahore.