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Nawaz Sharif in S. Arabia to hold talks on ‘matters of national interest’

Updated December 31, 2017

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PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz speaks at a public meeting on Saturday.—Online
PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz speaks at a public meeting on Saturday.—Online

LAHORE: Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday arrived in Saudi Arabia where he would hold meetings with the royal family on what his party said “matters of national interest and not for personal reasons”.

Mr Sharif flew to Saudi Arabia by a foreign airline from the Allama Iqbal International Airport of Lahore.

The ruling party also dismissed the reports as “absurd” that said efforts were under way to have another National Reconciliation Order (NRO). “Those claiming that an NRO is being prepared should at least know that it is signed secretly and not so openly,” a close aide to Mr Sharif, Senator Pervaiz Rashid, said.

He was talking to Dawn about the purpose of Mr Sharif’s visit that created much hype in media about reaching a possible deal between the embattled Sharif family and the military establishment.

“Mian Sahib’s visit is that of national interest as it has nothing to do with his personal interest. It will not be good to talk about the matters of sensitive nature before they take final shape,” he said.

Senator Rashid said that Saudi Arabia was observing developments in Pakistan closely. “At times the two friendly countries need each other’s help on certain matters. Those who are claiming that Mian Sahib’s visit to Saudi Arabia is aimed at achieving personal and party’s interests are in fact unaware of the nature of relations between the two brotherly states,” he said and advised Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan to better keep quiet over Mr Sharif’s visit as his “irresponsible statements” were not only hurting Saudi Arabia but also causing problems for Pakistan.

A PML-N insider says efforts are being made to restore ‘good old relations’ between the royal family and the Sharifs through Turkey

When reminded that if the matters with Saudi Arabia were related to national interest of Pakistan the kingdom should talk to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the PML-N senator said: “Be it Saudi Arabia or any other country it takes the popular leadership of Pakistan into confidence on important issues between the two countries. Nawaz Sharif was an elected prime minister and is the chief of the ruling party. It is obvious that importance is given to the leadership of a popular party of Pakistan.”

Shahbaz Sharif is already in Saudi Arabia where he is likely to accompany his elder brother during meetings with the top Saudi leadership, including King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. CM Sharif left for Saudi Arabia on a special plane sent by the kingdom on Wednesday.

A PML-N insider told Dawn that a serious effort had been under way to restore ‘good old relations’ between the Saudi royal family and the Sharifs through a common friend. “It seems to be an effort on the part of the Sharifs to mend fences with the royal family through a common friend, Turkey,” he said, adding that ‘good relations’ between the Sharifs and the royal family would also help the former to negotiate with those who matter in Pakistan at an appropriate time.

The relations between the Sharifs and the royal family were reported to have been strained on the issue of Yemen when the former showed reluctance to send troops to Saudi Arabia.

When asked about the presence of Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in Saudi Arabia to play any role in this regard, Senator Rashid said: “I cannot comment on such speculation. Check out whether the Turkish prime minister is still in Saudi Arabia or not.”

Shahbaz Sharif on Thursday had met Mr Yildirim.

Senator Rashid said that the elder Sharif might return home by Monday.

On the other hand, opposition is still casting doubt that “something is being cooked” in Saudi Arabia to provide relief to the Sharifs.

“For how long will Pakistan have to suffer the constant humiliation wrought on it by the greedy Sharif brothers dashing abroad seeking help from foreign leaders to save the wealth they plundered from the nation? The Sharifs’ greed is becoming a national security threat for Pakistan,” Imran Khan tweeted.

On reports that the Sharifs might live in Saudi Arabia in exile in the wake of their meetings with the royal family, Maryam Nawaz tweeted: “Exile will be the fate of dictators and those who toppled democracy instead of the elected representatives of the people.”

Meanwhile, Ms Maryam continued her tirade against the judiciary for disqualifying her father Nawaz Sharif.

“Imran Khan says he has an offshore company but the court says he does not have it. They will have to answer the injustices meted out to us. The cases against us are based on suppositions,” Ms Maryam said while speaking to party workers in NA-120, Lahore. She said all opponents of Nawaz Sharif had gathered on one platform against him. She said her father was disqualified on an Iqama (work permit) which was only used to get a visa (of a country).

The PTI says Mr Sharif used Iqama for “money laundering”.

Published in Dawn, December 31st, 2017