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LAHORE: Speculation that stalwarts of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz are wary of Dr Tahirul Qadri’s plan to stage another sit-in on the issue of Model Town killings got credence on Sunday when federal ministers Ahsan Iqbal and Khawaja Saad Rafique asked the Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief to move the court to get justice instead of being used (by some people) to derail democracy.

Asking Dr Qadri not to hold an multiparty conference (MPC) on the Model Town incident, they advised the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf not to become part of another round of street protest as they would gain nothing if the present set-up was wrapped up.

The PAT has announced that it will hold an MPC next week and also given Dec 31 deadline for Pun­jab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s resignation for “his role in the killing of 14 people in June 2014”.

Speaking at a seminar here, Railways Minister Rafique warned Dr Qadri against being used by others to derail democracy.

Saad Rafique says what happened in Model Town should not have happened

“What happened in Model Town should not have happened. If Qadri sahib believes in the judicial system, he should file a petition in the light of Justice Najafi’s report. But he must not get on a container again and block roads. Some people want to derail democracy by using him and he should understand this,” Mr Rafique said. At the same time he asked the PPP and PTI to avoid being “part of any conspiracy”.

“All political parties should take part in next year’s elections and strengthen the democratic system.”

Like his party chief Nawaz Sharif, the minister warned that the nation could not afford another 1971-like dismemberment of the country.

He said the PML-N had launched the movement for restoration of judiciary, but [former chief justice] Iftikhar Chaudhry did not let it achieve its purpose [restoration of judiciary]. He clarified that the PML-N was not on a collision course with the judiciary, but it had the right to criticise its decisions.

About Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa’s visit to the Senate, Mr Rafique said there was no difference between the narrative of the army chief and that of the PML-N leadership. “The army chief expressed his strong commitment towards democracy.”

But, he added, those who came under him [the army chief] should also follow his resolve to protect democracy, indirectly referring to the “conspiracies” being allegedly hatched against the PML-N government.

The outspoken minister was critical of breaking political parties and said: “We do not support what is happening to the MQM-Pakistan. Creation of artificial parties does not work.” But he admitted that there was no democracy in political parties and warned against doing politics on the sensitive matter of Khatm-i-Nubuwat because it might threaten Pakistan’s solidarity.

Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said: “We share the grief of Dr Qadri. One day it will transpire who was behind the killings in Model Town. The forces behind the Model Town incident wanted to send the government packing. The incident had provided an excuse to hold the long march against the PML-N government in 2014.”

He asked Dr Qadri to hold an APC on US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as capital of Israel instead of on the Model Town incident.

Mr Iqbal was of the view that PTI chairman Imran Khan wanted early elections because he feared that in March Senate polls, his party’s MPAs from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa might not vote for its candidates. “I challenge Imran Khan to get votes from PTI MPAs in the Senate election. They will vote of their free will.”

The minister said Mr Khan’s fight against corruption was a sham as he had expelled Justice Wajihuddin from his party for recommending action against some powerful corrupt elements in the PTI.

As a debate in the PML-N ensued whether Shahbaz Sharif would have the blessing of his elder brother to become prime minister if the party wins the 2018 elections, Saad Rafique said the party would go into the campaign under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif, while Ahsan Iqbal said it would be under Shahbaz Sharif.

Veteran politician Javed Hashmi and MQM-P leader Khalid Maqbool Saddiqui also spoke on the occasion.

Published in Dawn, December 25th, 2017