Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, during a press conference in Islamabad on Monday, said that Nawaz Sharif's statements about the Mumbai attacks in an interview to Dawn were being misrepresented by Indian media — and people in Pakistan should not become party to the propaganda.
The press conference was held shortly after the conclusion of a National Security Council (NSC) session, which was convened to discuss "recent misleading media statement" regarding the Mumbai attacks.
According to DawnNewsTV, PM Abbasi dispelled the impression that Nawaz had said that the Mumbai attacks had been planned in Pakistan.
"Nawaz Sharif said that he neither said any such thing, nor can it be said on the basis of assumptions that planning for the Mumbai attacks was done in Pakistan," said the PM, who met Nawaz shortly after the NSC meeting ended.
"Indian media is giving the issue a different hue, and we should not be a part of it," he said.
The NSC did not condemn Nawaz, but the incorrect reporting of the interview, the PM clarified, referring to an earlier joint statement issued by the country’s top civil-military body.
"There was no talk [by Nawaz] of the Mumbai attacks being planned in Pakistan," Abbasi explained.
"Nawaz Sharif said that Pakistan has not permitted its soil to be used for terrorism," he added.
"The participants observed that it was very unfortunate that the opinion arising out of either misconceptions or grievances was being presented in disregard of concrete facts and realities," a press release issued after the meeting had said.
"The participants unanimously rejected the allegations and condemned the fallacious assertions."
"The facts should be made public," he added.
Abbasi, who was elected PM after Nawaz Sharif was ousted as the country's premier by the Supreme Court in the Panamagate judgement, reiterated his support for his predecessor. "As the prime minister, I stand with Nawaz Sharif," he said, adding that Nawaz would remain the party's quaid.
He also clarified that he was not resigning, saying, "I will stay the prime minister until 12am on May 31."
The PM asserted that civil-military relations remain the same as before. He added that he had made the decision to call the NSC meeting a day earlier.
The press conference has not been aired on any television channel so far. Samaa TV, however, claimed on its website to have run the presser.
In an exclusive interview to Dawn published on Saturday, Nawaz, while speaking on matters related to the country’s foreign policy, had stated: "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 was referring to the Mumbai attacks-related trial proceedings which have stalled in the Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court.
Although Nawaz has stuck to his guns, asking: "What did I say that was wrong in the interview?", his younger brother Shahbaz, 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".
Nawaz, in response, had dispelled the notion that the comments were falsely attributed to him, saying that he would speak the truth come what may.
'Incorrect and misleading statement,' say civil-mil officials
Top civil-military officials who took part in the NSC today — which was called on a 'suggestion' by the Army — unanimously termed the statement 'incorrect and misleading'.
"The meeting reviewed the recent statement in the context of Mumbai attacks, as it appeared in the daily Dawn of 12th May 2018, and unanimously termed this statement as incorrect and misleading," a press handout issued after the meeting said.
"The participants observed that it was very unfortunate that the opinion arising out of either misconceptions or grievances was being presented in disregard of concrete facts and realities. The participants unanimously rejected the allegations and condemned the fallacious assertions," the statement added.
The PML-N and its leaders have, since Saturday, been scrambling to explain what the statement actually meant, while Nawaz has since read out the excerpts from the interview asking whether he has said anything wrong.
The PML-N claims that Nawaz was "grossly misinterpreted by the Indian media" as a part of malicious propaganda which was unintentionally or intentionally validated by Pakistani media.
'Indian govt to blame for Mumbai attacks trial hold-up'
Earlier on Sunday, without naming Nawaz directly, former interior minister Chaudhry 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."