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ISLAMABAD: Defending Pakistan Muslim League-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif’s controversial interview regarding the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on the floor of the National Assembly on Tuesday called for the constitution of a national commission to decide whether Mr Sharif’s statement was in the benefit of the country or if he had committed treason.

The opposition staged a walkout over the remarks of the prime minister when he said: “They [opposition leaders] are suffering from stomach cramps over Nawaz Sharif’s statement.”

Although Speaker of the National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq expunged the words (stomach cramps) from the record of the proceedings, the opposition staged a walkout after which Hamidul Haq, a member, pointed out lack of quorum. However, the proceedings of the lower house that were halted for a few minutes resumed after the required number of 65 members (of treasury benches) was found present in the house through a quick count.

After some time members belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) returned to the house but those from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) remained outside until the session was adjourned to Wednesday.

Prime Minister Abbasi also suggested formation of a parliamentary commission to discuss controversies of the past. “If you want to revisit the past, I would have no objection over a commission to be formed by parliament,” he said.

PM moots commission to look into controversial interview; opposition stages walkout

“If forming a commission, as demanded by the opposition as well as by Nawaz Sharif, would serve the nation, it should be set up without any delay,” he said, adding that the government would extend cooperation in setting up the commission even if it had a second left in the completion of its term by May 31.

The prime minister said Mr Sharif had no need to get a certificate of patriotism from anyone because this would be decided by the people of the country in the coming general elections.

He said no one had a right to declare Mr Sharif a traitor, adding that the former prime minister did not say anything that had not been said earlier. “Former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf, former chiefs of Inter-Services Intelligence retired Lt Gen Asad Durrani and retired Lt Gen Shuja Pasha, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan and former interior minister Rehman Malik had also given similar statements on the Mumbai attacks in the past,” he said.

Mr Abbasi said whatever was said during the interview and whatever was written by the reporter was misinterpreted by the Indian media to serve India’s own purposes.

“The local media had picked up India’s narrative by widely reporting the remarks made by the ousted premier, which had stirred a controversy,” he added.

“A small part of the long interview related to non-state actors has been misreported as Mr Sharif neither said nor gave an impression that the people responsible for the Mumbai attack had been deliberately sent by Pakistan,” he said.

The prime minister

reiterated that Pakistan 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 added.

When some opposition members shouted raising objections to his assertion, Mr Abbasi stood up in anger and told the speaker, “Let them express their anger as I am here to end this issue once for all.”

However, the speaker replied that once he [the PM] had completed his speech he could not be allowed to speak again on the floor of the house, particularly when the finance minister had started his speech to conclude the budget debate.

Earlier, PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi asked if there was nothing wrong in the interview of Mr Sharif then why the National Security Committee meeting was called.

He said Mr Sharif had rejected the outcome of the NSC that his statement on the Mumbai attacks was not based on facts.

Ijaz Jakhrani of the PPP asked why Mr Sharif had passed such controversial remarks at this stage. “If the remarks of Mr Sharif have been twisted by the media then has any action been taken against it,” he added.

Journalists’ walkout

During the session, journalists sitting in the media gallery also staged a walkout to protest against registration of a terrorism case against a Khairpur-based journalist, his two sons and some other relatives.

The speaker asked Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb to talk to the media persons but she did not do so, compelling the journalists to stage a sit-in at the main gate of Parliament House.

Some opposition leaders, including Asad Omar of the PTI and Pervaiz Elahi of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, joined the media persons. Later they called off their protest but no one from the government side contacted them.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2018

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