This week Truth Tracker talked exclusively to one of the leading opposition leaders, former federal information and railways minister and head of Awami Muslim League Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed.
Truth Tracker: You demanded to impose judicial martial law in the country for 90 to 120 days which was categorically rejected by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar and said there is no such provision in the constitution of Pakistan and as long as he is the chief justice no martial law could be imposed in the country? Do you still want martial law in the country?
Sheikh Rasheed: Judicial martial law doesn’t mean that the elections and electoral process should be stopped in the country you mark my words whenever elections take place in Pakistan they (Government) is saying that they would dissolve the assemblies on 31st May, 2018 and will present budget before that dissolving the assemblies. So, in such a scenario the decision caretaker governments in the country are very important otherwise, the same drama would continue in Pakistan for another where the parties who would lose will not accept the results that is why I suggested that Chief Justice of Pakistan should decide that which people should become part of caretaker setup in provinces and federation. But, if he thinks that it is unconstitutional. Let me tell you that I have seen disrespect of constitution many times over the years the issue of 18th amendment is not that big issue. For establishing and strengthening democracy in the country and for the credibility of the elections in my opinion the caretaker governments and their ministers must be impartial and must not be part of any political party and they must ensure free and fair elections and if they fail to do that it would be a huge crime which would be irreparable for the country.
But as Chief Justice of Pakistan had rejected the option of judicial martial law so, I must not speak on this issue. I am a political worker and I believe that at times we have to take bad but bold decisions as well. I remember those days when Benazir Bhutto said in the evening after elections that they were not free and fair and, in the morning, she completely changed her statement after coming into power. I have already conveyed my message and ideology to the masses but if it is not acceptable to Army, government or the opposition I can’t do anything about it.
TT: What was your motive behind the judicial martial law demand? Because some circles are claiming that few hidden forces allegedly asked you to demand this with the motive of derailing democracy in Pakistan?
SR: I am the big General of politics I don’t demand anything on the advice of Army or any other institution I am more senior as compared to them because when I entered politics leaving my college at that time they were enrolled in colleges. In politics I take my own decisions and nobody could dictate me. People who impose martial laws don’t ask people to give statements and I demanded judicial martial law under Justice Saqib Nisar with the power and strength of constitution and using article 199 he give directions to remove all the ambiguities from the elections process, correct delimitations of constituencies, census should be corrected and polling staff should be properly trained.
The war is also on the cards because it is likely that the decision of Nawaz Sharif’s pending cases would be announced before 31st May, 2018 we have already started witnessing his (Nawaz) changed voice as he is giving this impression now that he is ready to talk and negotiate with institutions. Sharif Family is extremely coward. First, they try to threaten people but the reality is that they are always scared to go behind bars. They want safe passage to take away all their ill-gotten money from Pakistan and they are trying left, right and centre to get that safe passage which I am sure they won’t get this time.
TT: You think that the times have changed and Sharif family would fail this time to lock deal or negotiate things with establishment successfully?
SR: The people and institutions who ‘negotiate’ things would continue talking to them but I don’t think that there is any room for Sharif family’s politics in Pakistan. Snakes (Sharif’s) have been kept as pets by GHQ for too long but now their game is over now. They used to come in power with the help of them and now trying to bite the judiciary and army. So, I don’t see any new NRO for them.
TT: Are you foreseeing military coup in the country or do you want to see anything like that in Pakistan?
SR: Well if somebody is interested in imposing martial in the country he won’t ask me before doing that I am a political worker and head of a political party. There is a leadership crisis in this country and it won’t be an easy job for them to select people from across the country for caretaker setup which must be independent and impartial. My demand for judicial martial law was for the betterment of the country because we need good people in the caretaker setup otherwise the election would become controversial. What I am seeing is that general elections will take place in November or December this year.
TT: Why do you think that the general elections would be delayed till November/December?
SR: Well, I am saying this on technical grounds as they are asking for objections on delimitation of constituencies till April 3, 2018 and it would be impossible for ECP to give answer to objections in one month. The government would dissolve on 31st May, 2018 and till date the census work is very slow. They are burning the midnight oil and working very hard but still it is slow so approximately the elections would take place in November/December, 2018. The political parties would go to High Courts and then Supreme Court on delimitation of constituencies’ issue which would delay the elections because the constituencies are divided some international formula ‘clockwise’ delimitation of constituencies which badly disturbed the old formation of the constituencies. So, I am foreseeing this process to be completed in November or December.
TT: Does it mean that the circles which fear that some hidden forces are planning to extend the tenure of caretaker setup in Pakistan are somewhat right?
SR: Well, what is the harm in giving some extra time to caretaker governments for strengthening democracy and smooth transition of power? Who listen to caretaker governments in Pakistan people listen to political forces, judiciary, army and other institutions. There is no harm if their tenure is extended for few months because all I want is that elections must be held in 2018.
TT: Chaudhry Nisar has been openly criticising Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz Sharif. What is cooking inside PML-N?
SR: I have a lot of respect for Chaudhry Nisar and I had said in the past as well that PML-N would split into independent groups and Chaudhry Nisar should lead them. For the exact number of those independent group members you have to wait till 31st May, 2018.