PML-N leader Rana Mashhood whose controversial statements on Tuesday night left his party red-faced has been suspended and also issued a show-cause notice, it emerged on Wednesday.
At a joint press conference with Mashhood, PML-N leader Malik Ahmed Khan confirmed that the party had issued him a show-cause notice for his comments, and that Mashhood would also issue a more conclusive clarification on his statements soon.
Mashhood, during the presser, said that his interview from yesterday should only be commented upon by those who have actually seen it, and claimed that his remarks were taken out of context.
"In that entire interview, if the word 'deal' has been used then let me know," he said. "We have always talked about the respect of the departments, parliament and the rule of law.
"We have never looked for backdoors. My party has always taken a principled stance. I am saddened that my comments were twisted. The thing that wasn't there, was raised.
"Neither have we been a part of any deal before nor we will allow anyone to make any deals now. I did say this though that those who were considered horses, turned out to be mules."
Furthermore, Mashhood said that the remarks he had made were his own "personal take and opinion", also adding that his use of the word "establishment" was not a reference to the army.
Later in the day, PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif suspended Mashhood's party membership, and also formed a three-member committee to conduct an internal inquiry against him.
Comprising Raja Zafarul Haq, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Rana Tanvir, the committee will submit its report to the party in two weeks' time, said PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb.
Final action against Mashhood will be taken in the light of the recommendations of the committee, Aurangzeb added.
Shahbaz confirmed the development himself, and made it clear that "Rana Mashhood's statement has nothing to do with the party".
"There have been no discussion regarding breaking up the Punjab government," he said. "If they do good work then we will praise them, otherwise we will grip them."
Chauhan rubbishes Mashhood's contentious remarks
Mashhood's contentious remarks were also rubbished by Punjab Information and Culture Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, who stressed that the security establishment had no role in the July 25 general elections.
"The 2018 election was 100 per cent free and fair, and the establishment had no role in it," the PTI leader said. "The establishment, in an impartial and neutral manner, has been working to strengthen and promote democracy for the last 10 years.
"But what Mr Rana Mashhood did on the say-so of his leadership and the offspring of the Sharifs yesterday, it has not only hurt the sentiments of the army, establishment and patriotic elements, but has also exposed his own face."
Chauhan claimed that the entire episode has made it clear that the Sharifs' slogan of vote ko izzat do (honour the vote) was actually establishment se vote lo (take vote from establishment).
Mashhood stirs up a storm with controversial comments
Mashhood had stirred up a storm yesterday when he seemed to suggest during a TV interview that the security establishment had played a role in Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's (PTI) victory in the 2018 elections and that it (the establishment) had now realised that the PTI leaders were not capable of delivering what had been expected of them.
The controversy began with an interview the PML-N leader gave to Samaa TV. During the interview, Mashhood was asked whether the civil-military tensions that had reportedly marred the tenure of the last PML-N government still existed after the end of the party's rule.
"I think the relations have improved to a considerable extent," Mashhood said. He was then asked how the fences with the establishment were mended.
"The situation has improved I think because 'they' have now realised that those whom they had considered horses, turned out to be mules. And the mules are not able to deliver," the video footage showed him as saying.
Although the interview available online is a compilation of clips and appears edited at points, Mashhood seemed to be suggesting that the establishment had agreed to improve relations with the PML-N because its expectations from PTI leaders had been quashed after the Imran Khan-led party came into power.
He then appeared to say that PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif had a "very large" role in the reported patch-up between the party and the establishment.
Mashhood's statements had elicited a strong reaction from the military's media wing, while the PML-N distanced itself from his claims. Mashhood for his part claimed that his remarks were shared out of context.
"Attribution of an obvious vested statement by Rana Mashhood is baseless and regrettable," tweeted Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor.
"Such irresponsible expressions are detrimental to stability in the country," he added, without elaborating.