PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif on Thursday explained that his absence from a multi-party alliance's protest against alleged poll rigging a day earlier was due to rough weather and nothing else.
Shahbaz was the most notable absentee when an array of political leaders, united under the newly formed ‘Pakistan Alliance for Free and Fair Elections’, held a protest demonstration outside the Election Commission of Pakistan in Islamabad on Wednesday against alleged rigging in the July 25 general elections.
He explained today that his absence should not be misconstrued and reiterated that his party stands with the 11-party grand alliance on the issue.
"All the opposition parties held a comprehensive but peaceful protest yesterday," Shahbaz said during a media talk following his visit to Adiala Jail. "I couldn't be there because my flight was cancelled due to rough weather. No matter what people say, this is the truth.
"There will be more such protests in future. This issue will be raised in the assemblies. We're going to the assemblies not to congratulate but to raise this issue of the highest priority.
"The alliance that has been formed has already decided to get this issue investigated through a parliamentary commission. That commission will find out how the RTS was closed on election day and why the polling agents were kicked out of polling stations.
"The election that took place was utterly rigged. There was pre-poll rigging and then there was rigging on the poll day too. All the foreign magazines, newspapers, comments are saying that."
When asked if his absence from the protest had anything to do with circulating rumours that a 'deal' could be in the works to get his incarcerated sibling and former PM Nawaz Sharif out of jail, Shahbaz replied in the negative.
"Neither anyone wants to give an NRO this time, nor is anyone seeking it," he said.
The former Punjab chief minister also gave an update on Nawaz, whom he and several other PML-N leaders met in the Adiala penitentiary.
"His (Nawaz's) incarceration is a massive sacrifice for the nation," Shahbaz said. "I talked to him today. He gave a sincere Salam for the nation and asked for prayers. He is in great spirits. He doesn't want to do politics of agitation but after the injustice that happened in the polls, it's our right to raise our voice against that."