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LAHORE: The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has questioned the Supreme Court’s decision to take up the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) plea to reopen the Rs1.2bn Hudaibya Paper Mills corruption reference against ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s family, saying it is unjustified to reopen a case that had been put to rest on a court order.

The PML-N’s reaction came after a meeting between Mr Sharif and his younger brother Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Senator Pervaiz Rashid, National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Railways Minister Saad Rafique at his Jati Umra residence on Saturday.

Sources said the participants expressed concern over the role of the establishment in creating an alliance — Pakistan Awami Ittehad — by retired Gen Pervez Musharraf, and bringing the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and Pak Sar Zameen (PSP) onto one platform. They also discussed the party’s preparations for the upcoming general elections and taking opposition parties on board regarding the legislation on delimitation.

Saad says any effort to bring Musharraf as an alternative leadership won’t succeed

“The reopening of Hudaibya Paper Mills case which had been closed in the wake of a court decision is unjustified,” Mr Rafique tweeted after the meeting. “Plans to entangle the PML-N leadership (Nawaz and Shahbaz) through such cases will not succeed. Confrontation will lead all of us nowhere,” the minister said.

The PML-N leaders discussed how efforts were being made to present Musharraf as an alternative choice for leadership. “Any effort to bring dictator Musharraf as an alternative leadership (to the Sharifs) will not succeed. Moves to break and make political parties should end now,” the PML-N leader said, adding that plans to bring MQM-Pakistan and Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) onto one platform had ended in a fiasco within 24 hours. “Decision on national politics will only be decided by the masses in the streets and not in drawing rooms,” he said.

Commenting on PSP chief Mustafa Kamal’s revelation that the establishment had brokered the MQM-PSP meet, Mr Sharif’s daughter Maryam lauded her father for never having disclosed “secrets of other state institutions” despite being targeted by them many times.

“Everyone is not like Nawaz Sharif who despite receiving wounds many a time holds the secrets of the state institutions for the sake of Pakistan,” Maryam said in a tweet.

Senator Pervaiz Rashid told Dawn that the PML-N leadership had held back-to-back meetings over the last two days. “We are assessing our preparations regarding the upcoming elections. In case of early or timely elections, we are figuring out where we stand... and what preparations we need to make accordingly.”

He said the government would reach out to all political parties, including the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, to bring them on board regarding the issue of delimitations. “We want a transparent election. We do not anyone to raise a finger on the election’s transparency... for that every party will have to play its role.”

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, is set to take up NAB’s petition on Monday to consider whether or not to open the Hudaibya reference.

A source close to the Punjab chief minister told Dawn that if there was ever a chance of a ‘deal’ between the Sharifs and the establishment, it was over because of the apex court’s decision to take up the Hudaibya case.

“All the exercise to convince Nawaz Sharif to nominate Shahbaz as the PML-N’s nominee for prime minister in 2018 seems to have gone in vain…Ever since the apex court decided to take up the NAB plea there has been total disappointment in the Shahbaz camp, which is of the view that if there was any chance of mending ties with the establishment, the Sharifs’ have lost it and now the party’s future is uncertain,” he said.

Another PML-N leader close to the chief minister said: “It appears that Nawaz Sharif has ensured that Shahbaz Sharif will go along with him...whether he rises or falls.”

In response to a question about the SC’s decision to take up the Hudaibya case at a press conference, Shahbaz Sharif said: “I will comment on this later.”

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2017