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Plan to emerge stronger from Panama: Hamza

Updated February 16, 2017

LAHORE: As hearing in the Panamagate case resumes after a two-week hiatus, MNA Hamza Shahbaz is optimistic that the Sharif family will emerge stronger and its stance will be vindicated in court.

He also dispels the impression (being created through media reports) that Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and his sons are not defending Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his children in the Panama case.

“Those saying so should read our statements and listen to our speeches on the matter,” Hamza said in an interview for Dawn. He hastened to add, “there is no issue in the family and it will remain united through thick and thin.”

“In fact, a sense of bonding and love in our family had been tested in the adverse times when Musharraf was using his might against us. My father had rejected his offer of becoming the prime minister,” he said. Even a dictator like Musharraf, he said, could not create a rift between the two brothers (Nawaz and Shahbaz).

Responding to a question, he denied reports that there had been a race among the scions of the Sharif family for succession to the throne. He also takes exception to those who call him a “deputy chief minister”, vehemently denying he harbours any ambitions.

He also castigated Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan and other opposition leaders who make jibes at the Sharifs, saying: “The so-called accountability-seekers must remember that we had been under scrutiny for eight years during the Musharraf regime. We underwent exile besides being scrutinised for our business and politics. I was also made to serve jail but I never compromised on principles.”

Talking about his political struggle spanning 10 years, he recalled: “When Musharraf sent my father and uncle and other members of the family in exile, I was detained here as political hostage. I have great regard for the political workers including those of PPP who served jail terms for the cause of democracy.”

He doesn’t believe he needs an office to serve the people. “I am here to serve the people and I do not need any government office. I believe that people can’t be fooled. They elect those politicians alone who work and solve their problem. Just take the example of the PPP which was routed in the 2013 elections because it could not deliver in its last regime.”

Similarly, he said, Imran Khan should learn from this and start serving the people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where he has the government. “Let me tell you, there is only one way to win election and that is performance,” said Hamza, who is sanguine about his party’s victory in the 2018 election.

As his political opponents also heap scorns on him for his alleged role in influencing transfers and postings and hiring in various departments, Hamza challenges them to prove this and corruption of even a penny.

The Sharif family scion, who was tasked with overseeing the local government elections, disagrees with the impression that the Punjab government is not willing to empower the system. He is rather critical of Musharraf’s local governments which, he said, opened the “doors to corruption”.

“I have visited all the 36 districts of the province and will ensure through local governments that people’s problems are addressed at their doorstep and that the local representatives do not face any financial constraints. It is the goal of our government to fully own the local system and make it stronger,” he said.

He also hit out at the critics of the PML-N’s development projects such as road infrastructure and metro services. “When they do not find anything else, they target out health and education initiatives. I don’t claim that all is well with these sectors but we are working hard to address the issues,” he said.

He said the government was making basic and rural health units model hospitals that would immensely help address the health issues at the local level. It had imposed ‘education emergency’ in the province, sending brilliant students abroad.

About Maryam Nawaz’s emergence on the political scene as a possible ‘successor’ to her father Nawaz Sharif and his (Hamza) own role in future politics, he said: “This is not a debate in our family. Portfolios do not matter. Prime ministers and chief ministers come and go; what matters is the love of the people. And people love us because we are serving them... fulfilling our promises on energy, terrorism, employment and economic growth.”

Hamza also fails to understand what he says unjust criticism especially by Imran Khan on politics of inheritance. “There are many countries where the children of famous political dynasties are doing politics. It is like a child of a doctor becoming a doctor... so what’s wrong if a son of a politician becomes a politician.”

Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2017