ISLAMABAD: Perhaps for the first time, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif expressed regrets on Tuesday over taking the Memogate controversy — which had triggered a confrontation between the then government and the military leadership — to the Supreme Court in 2011.

Also during the day, the apex court resumed proceedings in the Memogate case and summoned the interior and foreign affairs secretaries on Wednesday (today) to brief the court about their efforts to bring former ambassador to the United States Hussain Haqqani, the main character in the controversy, back to Pakistan.

Explore: Memogate and the aftermath

The case pertains to a controversial memo allegedly written by Mr Haqqani to the then US military chief, Admiral Mike Mullen. Mr Sharif as well as the top PML-N leadership had petitioned the Supreme Court seeking an inquiry into the matter.

Subsequently, a commission headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, who was chief justice of the Balochistan High Court at that time, had conducted the inquiry and submitted its report to the apex court. The matter has been pending before the Supreme Court since then.

After a gap of about seven years, Mr Sharif said his involvement in the controversy as a petitioner against former president Asif Ali Zardari in the case was a mistake.

“I should have stayed away from that,” Mr Sharif said while talking to reporters on the premises of the accountability court where he had come to attend hearing of the Avenfield Apartments reference.

Apex court seeks briefing on govt efforts to bring Hussain Haqqani back to country

Asked if it was the PML-N government that had instituted the case against Mr Haqqani, Mr Sharif replied that media persons knew better how such cases were instituted against anyone.

The former premier also admitted to have overlooked what he termed the draconian laws of accountability and Exit Control List (ECL) while he was in power. “These laws were promulgated by the dictator and he indiscriminately used it against politicians in the general elections of 2002,” Mr Sharif said. “Such draconian laws and others introduced by martial law regimes should be abolished in one go.”

Replying to a question about the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) being active against the PML-N, its initiation of an inquiry against Ali Jehangir Siddiqui, the nominated ambassador to the United States, and NAB recommendation to put his name on the ECL, Mr Sharif said it was to be seen who was doing all that.

“A prime minister nominates an ambassador and, on the other hand, NAB recommends his name to be put on the ECL. We need to see who is behind all that.”

He termed former military dictator retired General Pervez Musharraf “a liar and a coward”.

“He can’t face courts like us. I am facing the court with my daughter and son-in-law… He (retired Gen Musharraf) used to clinch his fists and say that neither Benazir Bhutto nor Nawaz Sharif would ever come to Pakistan. And when he was asked to appear before the court, he hid himself in a hospital without any illness,” he said.

At this Maryam Nawaz said that during the last three hearings of the Avenfield Properties reference, Mr Sharif had been suffering from throat infection but even then he came to the court. “We are facing the court and not hiding ourselves in a hospital.”

In response to a question whether his party workers would stand by him in this situation of pressure, Mr Sharif said now people were more aware and so were PML-N members. “Now pressure tactics will not work. People have become more fearless. They feel that they have to protect their self-respect and they also know that there is nothing good in changing loyalties.

About a recent meeting of Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar with a journalist, Mr Sharif said many people had commented on it. Regarding the same interview in which the chief justice had expressed apprehensions that the 2018 general elections might get delayed, he said: “We don’t want delay in the general elections and he [CJP] should not have talked about a delay even for a single hour. Now I am not at decision-making level and all decisions are in their hands so they must not talk about delay in the polls.”

“I have also read statements of different people on a recent doctrine,” Mr Sharif said.

Responding a question about the caretaker set-up, he said he had talked to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on the subject twice or thrice. “I don’t think that what happened during the 2002 elections could be repeated. At that time there was only one channel — PTV. Now people on different TV channels are saying what even politicians could not dare to say earlier. Some people are writing (on the political situation prevailing in the country) with utmost bravery.”

Meeting with allies

Speaking at a meeting with leaders of the PML-N and allied parties, including Pakhtuhkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai, at Punjab House, Mr Sharif said state institutions should operate within their constitutional limits.

He termed it unfortunate that “some quarters do not follow the Constitution it its letter and spirit”.

Mr Sharif said he might not have been an ideological person in the past but at present he was “100 per cent ideological”.

“Had we respected the sanctity of the vote for 70 years, Pakistan would have been among the top 10 countries of the world,” he said.

Memogate case hearing

The Supreme Court summoned the secretaries of interior and foreign affairs on Wednesday (today) to explain how much time was required to bring Hussain Haqqani back to Pakistan.

The chief justice expressed dissatisfaction over the progress in getting Mr Haqqani extradited by the US, observing that everything was in doldrums and the report submitted to the court was merely eyewash.

Earlier, Additional Attorney General Mohammad Waqar Rana told the court that an FIR had been lodged against Mr Haqqani besides relevant courts had issued his arrest warrants and now the government was approaching Interpol for execution of the warrants.

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2018


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