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Opp says Shahbaz’s goose is cooked

Updated September 22, 2017

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LAHORE: At a time when the Sharif family faces immense pressure in the face of graft cases, the Lahore High Court’s decision in the Model Town killings case has come as a bolt from the blue for the ruling party.

The opposition parties see the fate of Shahbaz Sharif no different from that of his elder brother Nawaz Sharif, saying he (Shahbaz) has two choices -- either to stay in London or face jail term.

The LHC direction to the Punjab government to make the report of Justice Ali Baqar Najafi on Model Town killings of Dr Tahirul Qadri’s supporters in June 2014 public seems to have compounded the predicament of Shahbaz Sharif. His departure for London is being related with this development amid speculation that the Sharif family may not return home to face accountability in the National Accountability Bureau’s references.

“The LHC’s decision to make Justice Najafi’s report public has come as double trouble for Shahbaz Sharif after the Supreme Court admitted NAB plea against a LHC verdict to acquit him and his other family members in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills money-laundering case,” admits a PML-N insider.

“After Nawaz, it seems it is the turn of Shahbaz to face the music. Shahbaz decided not to publish Justice Najafi’s report after consulting his legal team and will file intra-court appeal. But it appears that he can no longer manage to sit on this report in the current situation,” he said and suggested that the report be made public if there was nothing against him. “Delaying tactics will only strengthen the suspicion of the opposition and Dr Qadri that Shahbaz is the prime culprit in the incident,” he said.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, PML-Q’s senior leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi said Shahbaz Sharif and others involved in the Model Town tragedy would not escape punishment this time round. “The blood of 14 innocent people will not go waste and very soon their heirs will get justice and the culprits will be in jail,” he said.

Had it been in the control of Shahbaz Sharif, Pervaiz said, the building housing the report would have been burnt by now as had happened in many cases.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) also sees Shahbaz Sharif behind the bars for his role in Model Town tragedy.

“Shahbaz cannot get away with killings any more. Once Justice Najafi’s report is made public after the LHC order, Shahbaz may be hiding in London along with his elder brother,” PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry told Dawn.

He said since the FIR against Shahbaz and other officials of the Punjab government was already registered, only a supplementary statement based on one-man judicial commission was required to try them under section 302 of Pakistan Penal Code. “Shahbaz has been sitting on this report for the last three years because he knows he is the prime culprit. Now he has two choices -- stay along with his brother in London in self-exile or stay here to face jail term in NAB corruption references especially the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case,” Mr Chaudhry said.

The Punjab government, he said, would not be able to get any relief from the intra-court appeal.

The LHC order has created panic in the Shahbaz camp. “It seems like his elder brother, the game is over for Shahbaz too. Noose has been tightened against Shahbaz but since he is good at maneuvering, he is trying his best to negotiate with this situation,” a PML-N leader from Punjab told Dawn.

A Punjab government spokesman told Dawn that the chief minister was leaving for London tomorrow (Saturday) and he would likely to return next week. “There is no truth in reports that the chief minister will not return,” he said.

Sources say Najafi report points out that Shahbaz Sharif had not ordered police to “disengage” despite hours-long violent clashes with the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) workers. “Shahbaz Sharif had used the word ‘disengagement’ in his affidavit as an afterthought,” the sources quoted the report as having observed.

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2017