Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday defended his recent remarks about the 2008 Mumbai attacks — which have stirred a controversy in Pakistan as well as across the border in India — asking, "What did I say in the interview that was wrong?"
Nawaz, while talking to reporters outside an accountability court in Islamabad, read excerpts from his interview to Dawn during which he spoke on matters related to the country’s foreign policy.
“Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial?” he had asked in the interview, referring to the Mumbai attacks-related trial proceedings which have stalled in the Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court.
Soon after the publication of Nawaz’s interview on Saturday, the Indian media blew up his remarks, terming it an 'admission' on part of the former prime minister about Pakistan's involvement in the Mumbai attacks.
Subsequently, the party issued a clarification on Sunday, saying that the Indian media had “grossly misinterpreted” Nawaz’s remarks. The army, also on Sunday, had 'suggested' to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to convene a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC), the country’s top civil-military body, to "discuss misleading media statement regarding Bombay incident". The NSC meeting was held today in Islamabad.
Differences within the ruling party surfaced following the issuance of contradictory statements by the Sharif brothers on the issue. While Nawaz did not at all contradict his remarks, his younger brother and PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif, who is also the chief minister of Punjab, issued a statement on Sunday, saying that the news report had “incorrectly attributed certain remarks to PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif, which do not represent PML-N’s party policy”.
In the statement, which Shahbaz issued as the party president but through the Punjab government’s Directorate General Public Relations, he said the PML-N “rejects all assertions, direct or implied, made in the news report of Dawn.”
His older brother, however, on Monday dispelled the notion that the comments were falsely attributed to him, saying that he will speak the truth come what may.
"Former president Pervez Musharraf, former interior minister Rehman Malik and former National Security Adviser Major-General (retd) Mehmood Durrani had already confirmed [what I said]," he added.
"Despite our 50,000 sacrifices [of lives], why is the world not paying heed to our narrative? And the person who is asking this question has been labelled a traitor."
He also called out those local media outlets that had criticised his words. "I am being called a traitor on the media — they [the media] are being made to call me a traitor."
"Are those who tore apart the country and the Constitution patriots? Are those who pulled out judges from their offices patriots?"
Earlier on Sunday, without naming Nawaz directly, former interior minister Chaudhary Nisar had addressed the PML-N supremo's question: "Why can’t we complete the [Mumbai attacks] trial?"
Nisar, under whose watch the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was investigating the Mumbai attacks, had emphasised that the Indian government was to blame for the hold-up in the trial. He added that since the assault took place in the Indian financial capital, it was the Indian government which possessed "90 per cent of the evidence and facts" of the incident.
Nawaz, when asked by a reporter on Monday to comment on the impression that India has been reluctant to provide evidence in the case, responded: "There is no shortage of evidence — there is plenty of evidence."
Another reporter pointed to Nawaz's acknowledgment of the presence of "non-state actors", to which Maryam Nawaz, who was accompanying her father, replied: "So then who was Zarb-i-Azb [military operation] conducted against?"
The former premier, however, interrupted and refrained his daughter from speaking any further.
Nawaz calls for commission to probe remarks
Later, while addressing a rally in Buner this afternoon, Nawaz claimed that when he says Pakistan is being isolated, he is described as a traitor.
"It is said that it is not acceptable when I say this," he claimed.
"Should I offer good suggestions, or should I not?" he wondered. "No one has a monopoly over this [offering advice]," he added.
The ousted PM claimed that those who work for the country and its people are labelled traitors while those who violate the Constitution are called patriotic.
"We are not ready to tolerate any harm coming to our country, and we will fight all powers that cause harm to our country, that work against our country's interests. Will you stand with me in this?" he asked the crowd.
He demanded that a national commission be made to determine who has actually committed treason.
"If I am actually a traitor or anti-national, come and form a national commission," he said.
"I will be there, and those who call me a traitor should also be there, so that the 220 million people of Pakistan can see who is the actual culprit," he said, adding that whoever is found guilty of treason should be hanged publicly.