LAHORE: Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira has indicated having a soft corner for Mian Nawaz Sharif, saying that those harbouring the idea of keeping the PML-N chief out of the political process are living in a fool’s paradise.
Mr Kaira made the politically significant remark on Tuesday with reference to the Asghar Khan case in which Mr Sharif is accused of having received Rs3.5 million from the ISI during the 1990 elections. Some PPP leaders, including Punjab Governor Sardar Latif Khosa, have called for disqualification of the Sharif brothers for allegedly using the money to stop the PPP from winning the elections and coming to power in 1990.
Talking to senior journalists here on Tuesday, Mr Kaira said: “If someone thinks that Nawaz Sharif can be kept out of political process he must be living in a fool’s paradise.” And he urged Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to heed to the advice of his elder brother (Nawaz) not to make derogatory remarks about President Asif Zardari. “I hope Shahbaz Sharif will follow the advice of his brother instead of Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s,” he added.
The elder Sharif, it may be mentioned, had said in a TV interview on Monday evening that if his party won the elections and he became prime minister he would not mind being sworn into office by Mr Zardari because he was an elected president.
A political observer interpreted Mr Kaira’s remarks as an indication that an ‘understanding’ had been reached between the PPP and PML-N that there would be ‘no serious effort’ on the part of the PPP-led government to implicate the Sharifs through the Federal Investigation Agency in the Asghar Khan case probe.
Mr Kaira, however, made it clear that the government had sought ‘sealed documents’ of the case from the Supreme Court to start the investigation. He also said he wondered why the court had not awarded punishment to the accused. “It would have been better if the court had awarded punishment to the accused armymen in the case,” he said and hastened to express his surprise over the court’s verdict with regard to a ban on the political activities of the president.
“The president is a product of a political process. How can he be stopped from doing politics. Without the president, parliament is not complete. Asif Ali Zardari, who is an elected president, has surrendered his powers to parliament, whereas non-democratic presidents like Gen Zia and Ghulam Ishaq Khan had wrapped up political set-ups. Had there been no elected president, this system would also have been sent packing by now.”He said objections were raised when an elected president addressed a public meeting while the chief justice held meetings with lawyers and got comprehensive media coverage.
Mr Kaira also expressed reservations over Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s gesture of sending a bouquet to TV anchor Hamid Mir.
“Hamid Mir is a petitioner in a case against the federal government and the chief justice should not have sent him a bouquet,” he said.
Mr Kaira, who was accompanied by Chaudhry Manzoor and Usman Salim Malik, said there had been a question mark on the transparency of almost all elections in Pakistan. “That is why people’s confidence in politicians has diminished.”
POLLS IN MAY: The information minister said general elections would be held in May next year and “there is no question of a delay unless some natural calamity takes place. In the presence of independent judiciary and media the delay is not possible.”
He said some people talked about the law and order situation but it had not been ideal in 2008 either. He said the government would ensure free and fair elections.
He said the Election Commission must look into display of weapons by candidates in by-polls and take stringent measures ahead of the general elections.
Mr Kaira said the interim set-up would not be of the choice of the government and the president had already surrendered his power in this regard.