Saad Rafique’s statement did not require ISPR's immediate response: Shah

LAHORE: Opposition Leader in the National Assembly, Khursheed Shah, said that he did not find anything objectionable in the recent statement of Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, which was criticised by the army spokesperson.

Addressing the media in Lahore, the senior Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader said he has examined Rafique’s remarks, delivered on December 24, and did not find anything controversial in them.

He stated that Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (DG ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor should not have spoken on the matter in haste, adding that Rafique’s comments did not contain anything to warrant such a reaction [from the army spokesperson].

In a press conference, Maj Gen Ghafoor had said “[Rafique’s] statement is very irresponsible and unwarranted as you are targeting the chain of command and the subordination system of Pakistan Army”.

On December 24, Rafique had praised the army chief’s “confidence-boosting move” of briefing the Senate.
However, the minister had said ‘others’ should also support the army chief’s stance on whom “his command is applied to”.
“They should also follow that order,” said Rafique and added that those who do mischiefs should also support the army chief.
Later on Thursday, Rafique said on Geo News’ Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada ke Sath that his statement was presented out of context by certain media channels and regretted the DG ISPR’s remarks.

‘PPP for FATA reforms from day one’

Continuing with his press conference, Khursheed Shah said the PPP wants democracy to continue in the country and for the general polls to be held on time.

With regards to the FATA reforms, Shah said the party has been supporting the reofmrs and merger of the tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa since day one. He claimed the government is avoiding taking a decision on the FATA issue due to its ‘commitments’ and added that he does not think the matter will drag on for long and a decision will be taken soon.

Responding to a question about the PPP leaders’ meeting with Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Tahirul Qadri, Shah said there is nothing new in the meetings as they have occurred before.  “We don’t want distances with any political party,” he asserted.

When asked about some political parties’ plans of launching dharnas (protest sit-ins), he said it is the democratic right of people to protest but the greater public shouldn’t be disturbed due to dharnas. He added that the recent dharna [by a religious group in Islamabad] sent a bad message to the world as Pakistan was cast as a dangerous country.

With regards to the ongoing traders’ protest in the Gilgit-Baltistan region, the PPP leader said it is highly unjust that GB’s residents are being taxed without constitutional cover.

He made a demand that the elections of GB and Azad Jammu and Kashmir are held alongside the general elections of Pakistan.