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Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal stated Tuesday that an explanation would be sought from the Director General of the Punjab Rangers over controversial deployment in the accountability court when former premier Nawaz Sharif appeared in relation to corruption references.

NAB proceedings were hardly discussed on Monday since this issue got more airtime; one cannot rule out something happening on similar lines on the 9th of October when Nawaz is expected to be indicted

“We are seeking an explanation from Rangers… the DG Rangers now should explain under whose authority and whose directives rangers deployed there and the conduct of local official who was evasive and did not respond to the calls of his minister…; this should also be investigated,” Iqbal told anchor Hamid Mir on Tuesday. He added that the inquiry on the matter has been completed saying that the civil administration is certain that it was not responsible for any communication that led to this misunderstanding.

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Ahsan Iqbal was infuriated when the Rangers personnel manning the Accountability court stopped him from entering. He said that he will resign instead of being a puppet minister while claiming that the Brigadier in-charge vanished when he called him. The event was met with censure as analysts, pundits, and supporters termed it as a military defiance to civilian authority. The event was deemed as a ratification of the belief in some quarters that the entire accountability campaign against Nawaz Sharif is an effort to undermine democracy.

The Supreme Court had debarred the ministers from entering NAB as in the previous hearing not only ministers flanked Nawaz Sharif but armed men chanted anti judiciary slogans inside the complex

Iqbal while narrating the incident said: “We do not want any confrontation between institutions. The civil-military relation in Pakistan is the most critical fault line. Our enemy wants instability. Being the interior minister it was necessary for me to go there since I was informed about a confrontation between city administration and a force which is under my command.”

Iqbal took serious exceptions on why the commander did not hear his call for a good part of 20 minutes. “Everybody had walkie-talkies in their hand and I mean if their DG, who is a major general, would have gone there and called his local commander he would have appeared [before him] in one minute. I am the minister in charge but nobody came. Frankly, I took that as very offensive. If we want to run this country we must run as a normal country… there should be one law for everyone,” he asserted.

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Being the interior minister it was necessary for me to go there since I was informed about a confrontation between city administration and a force which is under my command

While there is controversy surrounding the deployment, something which should be inquired, there is a need to exercise caution in terming it part of a civil-military tiff. The Supreme Court had debarred the ministers from entering NAB as in the previous hearing not only ministers flanked Nawaz Sharif but armed men chanted anti judiciary slogans inside the complex. It is hence questionable as to why Ahsan Iqbal, a bonafide Lawmaker did not include his name in the list of entrants a day before. Iqbal’s assertion that law must be equal for all would have got a stamp had he shown the way.

Being the interior minister it was necessary for me to go there since I was informed about a confrontation between city administration and a force which is under my command

Ahsan Iqbal’s appearance in the accountability court to lend full support to a disqualified lawmaker is against his role as the interior minister as, by law, he has no business doing so. In other words, in his capacity as a federal minister, he cannot attend an individual’s case that too as a supporter. If anything, as a commander of the said LEA, he principally should appreciate the fact that the Rangers sepoy was not over-awed by his presence. Further, the interior minister must have taken cognizance of why Nawaz Sharif was afforded state protocol and why armed men were allowed in the last hearing.

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Amid a tense political environment, turning a plain and simple security matter into a gargantuan tiff between the military and the government is least desirable. However, seemingly, it appears to be an attempt to divert attention from Sharif’s impending indictment by ratcheting up the contestable divide between the civilian and military high command. NAB proceedings were hardly discussed on Monday since this issue got more airtime; one cannot rule out something happening on similar lines on the 9th of October when Nawaz is expected to be indicted.

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