Nawaz Sharif, while speaking to reporters at the accountability court on Tuesday, "rejected" the National Security Committee's (NSC) statement from yesterday, terming it "painful and regrettable".
He stuck to his stance on the remarks regarding the Mumbai attacks made during an exclusive interview with Dawn published on Saturday in which Nawaz had said: "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?"
Soon after the publication of Sharif's interview, Indian media blew up his remarks, terming it an admission on part of the former prime minister that non-state actors from Pakistan were involved in the Mumbai attacks in which terrorists had killed more than 150 people and injured over 300 others in about a dozen shooting and bombing attacks in different localities.
The NSC, after a meeting yesterday, had issued a statement saying: "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."
It is pertinent to mention that the NSC statement did not name Nawaz while addressing the controversy around the 'misleading' comments about Mumbai attack. Soon after the NSC meeting, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in a press conference had clarified that the NSC had in fact condemned “misreporting” and not his party’s supreme leader’s statement.
Nawaz rejected the NSC statement today, describing it as "painful and regrettable", and said that it was "not based on facts".
He reiterated his demand for the formation of a national commission to decide who committed treason and said that it would allow all facts to become clear. "A decision should be made about who is a patriot and who is a traitor," he added.
"We should find out who laid the foundation of terrorism in the country," he asserted.
"Pakistan is not becoming isolated, it is already isolated. Tell me which country stands with us, is there any?" he asked.
On Monday, several senators on both sides of the aisle had fired a broadside at Nawaz for his recent statement about the Mumbai attacks, with some going as far as demanding that the PML-N supremo be tried for high treason; that his name be placed on the Exit Control List, and a thorough investigation be undertaken to determine the reasons behind the statement made by a thrice-elected prime minister.
"Even at that time, the same things ─ getting our house in order ─ were being discussed in an NSC meeting," he pointed out, referring to a 2016 meeting in which, Dawn had reported, the civilian government had informed the military leadership of Pakistan's growing international isolation and sought consensus on several key actions by the state.
Explore our exclusive: Act against militants or face international isolation, civilians tell military
"At that time, this matter was turned into 'Dawn leaks'," he said.
'Nawaz was misreported'
Shortly after Nawaz's talk with the reporters, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in the National Assembly defended the ousted premier's remarks on the Mumbai attacks ─ the second time in two days ─ reiterating the handout issued by NSC, saying that the PML-N quaid's comments were "misreported" and "misinterpreted".
PM Abbasi, on the floor of the house on Tuesday, said: "Whatever was said during that interview and whatever was written by the reporter was misinterpreted by the Indian media in order to serve India's own purposes."
He added that local media had picked up India's narrative by widely reporting the remarks made by the ousted premier which had stirred a controversy.
"Do we want to let India use us for its own motives?" Abbasi questioned.
"The one sentence about militant organisations and non-state actors in a long interview was misreported. Mian Nawaz Sharif neither said nor implied that the people responsible for Mumbai attack had been sent deliberately by Pakistan," he said.
He added that Nawaz had not said anything that had not been said before.
"The same things have been said by Imran Khan, former interior minister Rehman Malik, former president Pervez Musharraf as well as former director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence Shuja Pasha."
PM Abbasi went on to say that Pakistan has always maintained that it would not allow anyone to use its soil against any country. "This policy was followed when Nawaz Sharif was prime minister, when the PPP was in power, and when Musharraf was president," he asserted.
He added that if forming a commission — like some elements of the opposition, as well as Nawaz Sharif, were demanding — to look into the remarks would serve the nation, then it should be set up. He claimed that the government would follow through "even if it had a second left [in the completion of its term]". The current government's term ends on May 31.
PML-N divided on stance
Nawaz's remarks in addition to sparking a strong reaction from the opposition and media, also sent the PML-N scrambling in attempts to explain his remarks.
PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif ─ and Nawaz's younger brother ─ issued a statement 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."
He said that the PML-N "rejects all assertions, direct or implied, made in the news report of Dawn."
The younger Sharif said "the state of Pakistan and all its institutions stand together in the global fight against terrorism."
"We strongly believe that the interests of Pakistan are supreme to all personal and political interests," the PML-N president said, adding that "there could and shall never be any compromise on any national interest."
Even after Shahbaz's statements, Nawaz had defended his statement, asking "What did I say in the interview that was wrong?"