ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal told the Senate on Thursday that it was the responsibility of the provincial governments to keep an eye out for and take action against banned outfits in the country, including those organisations that were resurfacing under new names after being outlawed.
The Senate had asked Mr Iqbal to provide the name of the authority or agency responsible for keeping a lookout for banned organisations in the country, under the National Action Plan, and the role of the Ministry of Interior in monitoring the activities of these organisations.
In a written reply sent to the Senate, Mr Iqbal said: “It is the responsibility and authority of the provincial governments to take action in each case under the law. Intelligence agencies are mandated to keep regular watch on the activities of proscribed organisations. The Ministry of Interior regularly receives reports from intelligence agencies on the activities of proscribed organisations and shares the same with the Nacta and the provincial governments.”
The Senate had also asked Mr Iqbal whether it was true that a recent move by the United Nations, to impose sanctions on the chief of a banned outfit, had been thwarted. Since the Senate had not named Maulana Masood Azhar, who heads the outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammad, in the question, Mr Iqbal circumvented answering the question by saying: “It is requested that the honourable senator should be specific in his question in order that the same be replied in clear and categorical terms.”
The upper house had asked another question pertaining to reports that a CNIC and Pakistani passport had been recovered from Taliban leader Mullah Mansour Akhtar who was killed in a drone attack in Balochistan last year. Mr Iqbal responded that the matter had been reported in the media, and that the National Database and Registration Authority had found out that the CNIC had been issued to a person named Muhammad Wali. Nadra had conducted a departmental inquiry to unearth the involvement of its officials in issuing a fake CNIC to Mullah Mansour Akhtar and as per the recommendations of the inquiry, a deputy assistant director at the Karachi regional head office had been removed from service.
Mr Iqbal said that the Federal Investigation Agency had also registered a case in this regard. He furnished the names of six suspects in the case who had been arrested and taken to the Quetta district jail. He added that the suspects had obtained bail.
The interior ministry had refrained from responding to a question about Ehsanullah Ehsan, former spokesperson for the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. The Senate had asked the ministry to share details of the terror attacks Ehsan had claimed responsibility for, and the number of people martyred and injured in them.
Another part of the question sought details of cases registered against Ehsan. The ministry was also asked if the cases would be tried in military courts and if so, when. “The Ministry of Interior has transferred this question to the Ministry of Defence. However, the Ministry of Defence has not accepted the question so far,” the Senate was informed.
Retired Col Tahir Hussain Mashahdi was chairing the session during the question hour, and though most of the questions were directed towards the interior ministry, neither the minister for interior, nor the minister of state was available to answer those questions.
Senator Farhatullah Babar said most of his questions had gone unanswered, and regretted that the interior minister had not attended the session he was due to respond to questions in. The question-hour session thus lasted only about 40 minutes because most of questions, which pertained to the interior ministry, had to be deferred.
Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani took up the issue of absence of ministers with the Leader of the House in the Senate, Raja Zafarul Haq. He pointed out that 31 questions pertaining to the interior ministry had been asked, yet the interior minister and the minister of state for interior were out of the town while both houses of parliament were in session. Mr Haq promised to play a role in improving things.
Senator Rabbani then took up a calling attention notice on the issue of circular debt, but the minister for water and power was also not present. Neither was minister for food security. The senate chairman curtly adjourned the session till 10.30am on Friday (today).
The interior minister is expected to deliver a policy statement in the Senate on a disclosure made by his predecessor regarding a “serious threat to national security”.