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Sharifs will be offered neither deal nor concession: minister

Updated September 21, 2018

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FEDERAL Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry addressing a press conference on Thursday.—Online
FEDERAL Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry addressing a press conference on Thursday.—Online

ISLAMABAD: The government on Thursday rejected the notion that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members were released from jail under a “deal” and that Saudi Arabia had played any role in it.

“Nawaz Sharif is not so important for Saudi Arabia that they will talk about him,” said Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry while speaking at a news conference a day after Mr Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar were released from Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail after suspension of their sentences by the Islamabad High Court in the Avenfield properties case.

Editorial: Much room for NAB process against Sharifs to improve

The IHC verdict coincided with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia, giving rise to speculation in some circles that the Sharif family members’ release was a result of the Saudis’ request.

It may be recalled that Saudi Arabia was a guarantor in a deal between the Sharif family and then military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf in 2000 under which the Sharifs were released from jail and allowed to leave the country.

PML-N terms Fawad Chaudhry’s remarks ‘irresponsible’ and asks him to focus on governance

“Those who say that Saudi Arabia would have talked [about Nawaz Sharif during Prime Minister Khan’s visit] actually don’t know what kind of relationship the Saudis have with Nawaz Sharif,” the information minister said without elaborating.

“There will be no deal and no dheel (concession) with them (the Sharifs),” he declared, adding that soon “they will be back to the place where they had been a few days back”. “Nawaz Sharif will be in and out of jail. This thing will continue,” he said, adding that the Sharifs had only been granted bail and the case was still pending against them.

“Those who were questioning the government for putting the names of the Sharifs on the Exit Control List (ECL) would have got the answer now. Had we not done so, they could have flown to London soon after their release, and where would we have looked for these princes then?” he said, justifying the decision of the federal cabinet to place the names of the Sharifs on the ECL during its first meeting.

“We will not allow Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz to leave Pakistan and at the same time we will not allow (former finance minister) Ishaq Dar, and Hassan and Hussain (the two sons of Mr Sharif) to stay out of Pakistan,” he said.

Mr Chaudhry said that for them it was not important that how much time the Sharifs would spend in jail, as for the government bringing back the looted money of the people of this country was more important.

Lashing out at the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, he said it was heartening to see the PML-N people praising the courts. “So if the verdict is in their favour, all is well with the judiciary, and if it is against them, then the system is corrupt?” the minister said, asking the PML-N to decide once and for all as to what was their stance to end their confusion.

“In my opinion, the judiciary is free and independent,” he added.

Mr Chaudhry said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was also an independent institution and the government had no control over it. He said the government was looking for the loopholes due to which the Sharifs had been granted bail and soon they would rectify them and send them back to jail.

PML-N’s reaction

The PML-N termed the information minister’s remarks “irresponsible” and asked him to focus on “governance” instead of wasting time on petty matters.

Talking to Dawn, PML-N information secretary Mushahidullah Khan said that no party leader had given any statement about courts after the IHC verdict as they believed that Mr Sharif had only got “relief” and not justice.

Commenting on Mr Chaudhry’s statement regarding deal, he said the PML-N had not struck any deal when it could have done so in the past then why it would be doing it now. “Had we struck a deal, Nawaz Sharif would have been prime minister even today,” he said.

Mr Khan also ridiculed the minister’s justification for putting the names of the Sharifs on the ECL, terming the government’s act “vindictive”. He recalled that Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz were in London when the NAB court had announced the verdict and they returned home despite knowing that they would straightaway land in jail.

On the other hand, he said, the PML-N government did not put the name of Imran Khan and even President Arif Alvi on the ECL despite the fact that they were facing terrorism charges.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2018