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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s hurriedly called presser on Monday soon after the National Security Committee (NSC) meeting further compounded the confusion about its outcome when he claimed that NSC members had in fact condemned “misreporting” by the newspaper and not his party’s supreme leader Nawaz Sharif’s statement.

While the former premier himself owned his remarks that appeared in the Dawn interview about the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Mr Abbasi said Mr Sharif had told him just before leaving for Bannu that his remarks about the non-state actors and militants had been “misreported”.

Surprisingly, unlike the past practice, the prime minister’s presser held at the PM House was not telecast live even by the official Pakistan Television (PTV), though more than two PTV cameras and a DSNG (Direct Satellite News Gathering) vehicle were present there.

Accompanied by Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb and Finance Minister Miftah Ismail, PM Abbasi said Mr Sharif was misquoted as having said that Pakistan had sent the non-state actors or militants to India to carry out the attacks “whereas Nawaz Sharif is saying that he has not said anything like that nor can it be said on the basis of assumptions that planning for the Mumbai attacks was done in Pakistan”.

Abbasi says National Security Committee condemned ‘misreporting’ and not Nawaz Sharif’s statement

While blaming the Indian media for blowing up Mr Sharif’s remarks about the Mumbai attacks, PM Abbasi requested the Pakistani media “not to become part of their [Indian] design.” He said he had decided to meet media persons soon after his meeting with Mr Sharif only to “present the facts” before the nation.

“I have come here to tell you what Nawaz Sharif has just told me,” responded the prime minister when reminded that Mr Sharif had not only owned the remarks but also read out his published remarks on his mobile phone before the media in the accountability court and asked the reporters what was wrong with the remarks.

In reply to a question, Mr Abbasi denied that the interview was “facilitated” by the government and that the interviewer was given “official protocol” in Multan. “He is a reporter. Nawaz Sharif is a free man and he can meet anyone he wants to,” said the prime minister.

When asked that the official handout issued after the NSC meeting said that the participants had declared the statement by Mr Sharif “misleading” and “incorrect” and there was no mention of the newspaper’s misreporting in it then what were they condemning, the prime minister categorically stated that they had “condemned the misreporting”, especially Mr Sharif’s wrongly attributed remarks about the non-state actors.

PM Abbasi then explained that he had not been sent by Nawaz Sharif or Chief of the Army Staff to address a news conference. He said he was doing it in an effort to “control the damage being caused to the country due to this controversy”.

The prime minister evaded a question as to why the announcement of convening of the NSC meeting had come from the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) instead of the PM Office by simply stating: “Ask them this question. I had yesterday convened the meeting at 11.”

According to him, the latest issue had not affected the civil-military relations, as the premier said: “The civil-military relations are standing where they were standing on Friday [a day before the interview was published]”.

Asked if the government was disassociating itself from Nawaz Sharif, he said: “This is a wrong assumption.”

Mr Abbasi said he had voted for Nawaz Sharif three times in the PM elections and he had no “regret” over it. “I am with Nawaz Sharif. The whole party is with Nawaz Sharif. Even Shahbaz Sharif is with Nawaz Sharif,” said the prime minister while concluding his presser.

Mr Abbasi also declared that Nawaz Sharif had confirmed his old stance that Pakistan would never allow militants or non-state actors to use its soil against any other country.

In response to a question, the prime minister ruled out any possibility of early dissolution of the National Assembly, saying that he would continue to work as the prime minister till May 31 midnight.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2018