Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information (SAPM) Firdous Ashiq Awan in a press conference on Saturday revealed that the federal cabinet this week granted approval for launching an inquiry against senior PML-N leader Khawaja Asif for allegedly posing a risk to national security.
“A person who served in the capacities of a defence minister, a foreign minister and a water and power minister was found to have drawn a salary from a foreign company. This is a big threat to Pakistan’s security,” said Awan.
She disclosed that the matter had been referred to the Ministry of Interior with instructions to investigate it from all angles — hidden and obvious — to determine as to “how one tasked with safeguarding the country’s national security, the defence minister, was working for another country and presenting a security risk to Pakistan”.
Awan said that all the agreements and defence-related MoUs signed during his tenure as the defence minister, and all measures — linked to Pakistan’s national security — taken during the period will be evaluated.
“The Dubai company should also be investigated to determine that on the international level, close links with which countries were of benefit to it,” she said, before adding that it will also be probed “which countries were given access to our national secrets”.
“This is a serious security breach,” she said, promising that the media will soon be apprised of the facts that emerge from the investigation.
Talking about the video leak case, Awan said it would be premature to say anything regarding the outcome, and in any case, “we should not comment [on it] until the Supreme Court makes a final decision”.
She did, however, go on to remark: “Yes, his [the judge’s] affidavit is an eye-opener and points towards the mafia [-like nature of the party], how it traps people and uses them to their benefit, only to throw them away like a tissue paper later”.
‘Government can’t be blackmailed’
Awan saw the nation-wide shutter down strike being observed today as a natural consequence following major revamps being made by the government towards the economy’s functioning.
“The time has come to realise that when the status quo is challenged, a natural resistance follows.
“When you wish to no longer be a part of ‘business as usual’ and wish to go towards a reforms agenda and seek to ensure the implementation of the tax reforms which are the country’s need, the status quo beneficiaries will create hurdles in your path,” she said.
“We have to look at the traders’ difficulties in two ways: the genuine type — where there are real problems, there is no harm in sitting together and talking on these concerns — and then there is the other type in which a middleman who is a leader of a trader wing of a party, seeks to take forward a political agenda and creates chaos and mayhem.”
“The real trader is considered by the government as its pivotal partner with which the wheel of progress, government, economy is attached,” said Awan.
“A discussion on all their genuine issues will do no harm. Our doors are open for that. They should not feel the need to take out strikes to get their demands fulfilled,” she stressed.
Awan said that the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), as well as, the relevant provincial ministers of industries are already working on a resolution of the matter and are busy in a dialogue.
“Such traders, who by linking trade with politics wish to give oxygen to a political party, should refrain from such tactics and let the wheel of progress move forward, as this is how reforms will be brought and the country will move up in the world,” she said, vowing, “The government will not be blackmailed by anyone.”
“We will ensure the rule of law and follow the set format of the FBR because the system cannot function without taxes. The country will no longer run on debt or borrowings from different places. This country will now stand on its own feet and the revenue generation will be provided through tax reforms,” she declared.
Awan said that a market as big as [Lahore’s] Anarkali which has 20,000 shops, was found to have only 600 tax filers.
“These middlemen are charging taxes and the end customer is paying them, but it is not going to the government’s treasury so then whose pockets is it going into?” she said, asking the audience to connect the dots themselves.