Culprits soon to feel the heat

—— State Minister says apex committee meetings being held to tackle terrorism, smuggling
—— Asserts security personnel involved in ‘cross-border smuggling to face court martial’
—— Adds “not right” to say security forces not involved in smuggling
—— Says COAS vowed those involved in illegal trade will face the music
—— Bugti says it’s “encouraging” if Nawaz wants to partake in politics

By Anzal Amin

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti said Monday that any personnel of security forces found in-volved in cross-border smuggling would be court-martialed.

The government has intensified its crackdown on smugglers involved in transporting commodities and dollars to Afghanistan, especially in the last few months when havoc was wreaked on the already weakening economy.

The crackdown bore fruit as speculation diminished and the rupee recovered sharply against the greenback to become the best-performing currency globally, but analysts fear another round of de-preciation as they are sceptical about the long-term effects of administrative measures.

“If I say that security forces weren’t involved in [smuggling], it won’t be right as the [smuggled] items are transported via trucks, not camels,” Bugti said during a press conference in Islamabad. He said that Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir had told military personnel that whoever is found involved in illegal cross-border trade would face the music.

“Pakistan’s army chief had told his people very clearly: there won’t only be court-martials, but those involved in such activities would also be sent to jail,” the security czar added.

Bugti told reporters that the army’s accountability mechanism is not made public and that’s why it is not in the knowledge of the masses. “But the army has its own accountability [system], and we have not just seen it in this instance, but post-May 9 as well.”

The caretaker minister further said that the government was taking action against smugglers and that they were also appreciating law enforcers for their part in the crackdown on the people involved in illegal activities. “The state will deal with hawala, hundi, and other illegal activities with an iron fist.”

The authorities, he said, had recovered 8,000 metric tonnes of sugar, and action was also being taken against petrol pump stations for selling sub-standard fuel.

Bugti went on to say that a database was being made of the trucks being used in the smuggling.

The government strongly discourages the usage of hawal and hundi, he also said, adding that 168 FIRs have been registered against people involved in the dollar’s illegal trade.

‘Nawaz’s return to politics encouraging’
The interior minister, in the same presser, said that if Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supre-mo Nawaz Sharif plans to return to the country and partake in politics, it would be “encouraging”.

“I am still saying, despite what PML-N leaders have said about me, that Nawaz Sharif is the leader who came back to the country with his daughter; if he was afraid of going to jail, he would not have come back.”

The federal minister claimed that the government has to treat every Pakistani citizen in line with the law and the same would be done with Nawaz, the three-time prime minister.

Bugti had invited strong criticism from the top PML-N leadership when he said that if Nawaz was not granted bail, then the authorities would arrest the former PM from the airport.

After hard-hitting statements from the PML-N leaders, the minister said his “statement was given a political colour out of context. The caretaker government has no political agenda”.