LAHORE: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi called on the ruling party chief, Nawaz Sharif, at his Raiwind residence on Monday and discussed the Jan 17 protest’s plan by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek and reasons for the ouster of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) chief minister in Balochistan. Punjab’s Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was also present during the meeting which went on for about two hours.
A PML-N insider told Dawn that Shahbaz Sharif briefed the incumbent and ousted premiers about the Punjab government’s strategy to deal with Dr Tahirul Qadri’s protest on Wednesday (tomorrow) on the Mall Road — which is being supported by the Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q).
The chief minister told his brother and Mr Abbasi about the progress made in the Zainab murder case. He informed them that the Punjab government was utilising all resources to catch the culprits.
Zehri and Balochistan
According to the source, the three men also discussed the political situation in Balochistan and the alleged conspiracies that led to unceremonious departure of Sardar Sanaullah Zehri.
The prime minister briefed the party chief about his visit to Balochistan and the reasons that led to a revolt against Mr Zehri’s government.
“Nawaz asked the prime minister to keep a vigilant eye on Balochistan and remain in contact with the party’s rebel group in the Balochistan Assembly and try to woo them back with regards to their importance in the Senate election,” said the PML-N insider.
Since Mr Zehri’s resignation, it looks like the PML-N may lose a few Senate seats from Balochistan — if the 16-member PML-N rebel group in the provincial assembly remains at odds with the party leadership till the Senate elections in March.
A senior PML-N leader claimed that the party had “no immediate plans” to take any disciplinary action against them.
“Politics in Balochistan is different. We cannot initiate any disciplinary action without building a case against them,” he explained.
The former prime minister’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, said that the way the PML-N government was sent packing in Balochistan...“everyone knew about it”.
Talking to the media during a visit to NA-120 on Monday, she said: “I do not want to comment further as everyone knows how our government was removed in Balochistan.”
When asked if PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and PTI chairman Imran Khan were joining the PAT chief’s protest against the Model Town killings, she said that if they did not get together how would the people know who was part of the conspiracies [against the PML-N government]. “They failed earlier and will fail again,” she added.
Talking about the government’s strategy on how to deal with the protest on Wednesday, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told Dawn that using force to stop protesters would not be an option.
“Whether the opposition holds a day-long demonstration or decides to hold a sit-in for a longer period...we will give them a free hand and expose [through the media] the problems people face in the wake of their show,” he said.
The minister claimed that the opposition had no plausible reason to come out on the roads for justice in the Model Town case.
“The case is in court. Mr Qadri and the others should seek justice from the court instead of causing a great deal of inconvenience to the people of the city by blocking main roads,” he said.
Mr Sanaullah added that the opposition wanted to create a chaotic environment through the protest for political gains.
A senior official of the Punjab government confided to Dawn that in case Mr Qadri announced a sit-in in Lahore, then the government had different plans.
“Once they leave the venue, the participants of the sit-in will not be allowed to return as they will be taken into custody,” he said.
Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2018