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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supreme leader, Nawaz Sharif, on Friday said he would suggest to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to introduce a law or ordinance to suspend the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 before and during the caretaker government.

Speaking to reporters before appearing in an accountability court in connection with the Avenfield apartments reference, he alleged that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had become a tool against PML-N leaders and was being used to pressurise them to change their loyalty.

“NAB is targeting PML-N’s politicians. They are trying to implicate our key politicians in frivolous cases,” Mr Sharif said, claiming that the recent defections from his party were the result of a systematic pressure.

Just two days ago, NAB had started investigating corruption allegations against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa PML-N President Ameer Muqam for accumulating wealth and assets beyond his known sources of income.

The former premier termed the investigation by NAB “pre-poll rigging” and NAO “a black law” that he said had been promulgated after the military coup of October 1999 to target him and other politicians.

Hails CJP’s remarks that judiciary won’t validate martial law and will ensure timely, transparent elections

He said this was an area for consideration of Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar. “Is this appropriate that at a critical juncture when the party is preparing to launch its election campaign, NAB has started targeting the mainstream leadership?” he questioned.

Mr Sharif welcomed the CJP’s statement that the judiciary would not validate a martial law and would ensure timely and transparent general election. “We endorse the recent remarks of the chief justice regarding upcoming elections that he will ensure fair and transparent elections, but this should also be manifest through deeds,” he said.

Since the Supreme Court decision in the Panama Papers case that resulted in his disqualification, it was perhaps for the first time that Mr Sharif hailed the CJP statement. He claimed that he was against “any conflict or confrontation between the institutions as this leads to weakening of the economy, slowing down of progress and caused depreciation of currency”.

However, he continued to criticise the July 28, 2017 judgement of the Supreme Court and said it was beyond his understanding as to how the apex court had disqualified him from holding the PM office by interpreting a word with the help of Black’s Law dictionary.

The PML-N supreme leader said there should be level-playing fields for all political parties. He declared that his party would not accept election “in case of any discrimination”. He claimed that his party workers had been picked up by ‘unknown’ people before the by-election of NA-120, a seat that had fallen vacant after his disqualification, and released after polling. “It was really painful. The workers told me that unknown people had picked them and released them in the darkness of night,” Mr Sharif said, asking the Supreme Court to ensure such incidents were not repeated in the upcoming general elections.

In response to a question, Mr Sharif recalled that when he was returning to Lahore after being disqualified, he was advised to go by helicopter instead of travelling by road as he could be targeted in Gujrat and Gujranwala. He said he “ignored the security advice. I am not a person who takes U-turn.”

He told the media outside the accountability court that he had asked the court to allow live coverage of the proceedings so that people could be made aware of the trial.

On the occasion, he announced that the PML-N was ready for an inter-institutional dialogue for the rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution. If the “like-minded people” who believed in democracy and Constitution could sit together, there would be no hurdle left for speedy progress of the country, said Mr Sharif.

The former PM claimed that what people had witnessed in the Senate elections was the result of horse-trading and blackmailing and demanded that the CJP take suo motu notice of the last month polls.

In response to the Pakistan Peoples Party claim about forming government in the Centre and Punjab, Mr Sharif said the PPP secured between 400 and 500 votes during the last by-election. He suggested to the PPP co-chairman to improve his party instead of making tall claims.

Meanwhile, Judge Mohammad Bashir of the accountability court was on leave due to some ailment. While the duty judge, Mohammad Arshad Malik, adjourned the proceedings in the Avenfield apartment reference till April 9 without any progress, Friday’s appearance of Mr Sharif brought some surprises.

PML-N allies

His political allies, Mehmood Khan Achakzai of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo of National Party, were sitting in the courtroom before the arrival of Mr Sharif.

Both the nationalist leaders were sitting left and right to the seat where Mr Sharif usually sits during the proceedings.

While hailing the recent statement of CJP Nisar in which he categorically dismissed the impression that the upcoming general election would be delayed, Mr Bizenjo urged the judiciary not to invoke “dictatorial laws” against politicians.

While talking to reporters, he said the judiciary should not invoke dictatorial laws such as Article 62 and 63 against the politicians. “When the judiciary applied such laws against politicians, it gives strength to the dictatorial mindset,” Mr Bizenjo said, adding that the treatment meted out to Mr Sharif by the judiciary had raised questions over its standards.

Mr Achakzai also lauded the remarks of the CJP Nisar about free, fair and transparent election and said: “I on behalf of all the democratic forces, including the PML-N, must say that we are not in favour of any institutional clash but we only want that every institution operate within its constitutional framework.”

He said there was a defined jurisdiction of the legislature, the executive, the judiciary and the military establishment. The lawmakers and judges take oath of upholding and defending the Constitution, whereas military officers take oath of not interfering into politics, he said, adding that any institution going beyond of its mandate was violating the Constitution. “I request the chief justice to interpret the relevant provisions of the Constitution in this regard,” he added.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2018