Nawaz set to restart political activities after Shahbaz arrest

Updated 08 Oct 2018


PML-N quaid and ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif. ─ File
PML-N quaid and ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif. ─ File

ISLAMABAD: Nearly three weeks after his release from jail, the supreme leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is set to resume political activities from Monday (today) by presiding over an “emergency meeting” of the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) in Lahore.

The decision to hold the CEC meeting was taken by the party leadership a day after an accountability court in Lahore remanded PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif in 10-day custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for investigation into the Rs14 billion Ashiyana-i-Iqbal housing project scam.

Nawaz Sharif will be seen holding a formal party meeting after a gap of over four months — including the two months he spent in Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail with his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law retired Capt Mohammad Safdar following their conviction in the Avenfield properties reference.

Convenes ‘emergency meeting’ of CEC in Lahore today to discuss future strategy

The Sharifs were first released on a five-day parole by the Punjab government after the death of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz on Sept 11 to allow them to attend her funeral. And on Sept 19, the Islamabad High Court suspended their sentences and granted them bail till the disposal of their appeals.

Since then, Mr Sharif stayed away from media and political activities and the party leaders defended him by claiming that presently he was in a state of mourning over the death of his wife and that he would soon start his political activities.

However, the PML-N leaders now claim that due to the “sudden arrest” of his younger brother and former Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, the elder Sharif has been forced to jump into the political arena in order to boost the morale of the party workers.

Mr Sharif had previously held a number of informal and formal meetings with the party leaders at his Jati Umra residence in Raiwind before leaving for the United Kingdom with his daughter Maryam on June 14 to look after his ailing wife who had been under treatment at a London hospital.

On July 6, the accountability court had announced the verdict in the Avenfield reference, sentencing Mr Sharif to 10 years in prison for owning assets beyond known source income and to one year for not cooperating with NAB. His daughter Maryam was awarded seven years and Capt Safdar one year sentence for abetment.

However, Mr Sharif and Maryam dared to return to the country on July 13 — two weeks before the general elections — and were arrested in Lahore and later shifted to Adiala jail.

According to PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, the party leadership has convened the meeting at Model Town in Lahore at 11am to discuss the situation after the arrest of Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif by NAB and devise the party’s future strategy.

Ms Aurangzeb, who served as information minister in the previous PML-N government, said the party believed that Shahbaz Sharif had been arrested as part of the ongoing policy of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf to victimise its political opponents. “Shahbaz Sharif’s arrest just before by-elections is unacceptable,” she said. “Such actions will no more be tolerated.”

Talking to Dawn, she said that after in-house consultation and discussion, the PML-N would consult other opposition parties to take them into confidence as well.

Sources in the PML-N said the party had decided to lodge a strong protest inside parliament over Shahbaz Sharif’s arrest and for that purpose it had already submitted a requisition notice to the National Assembly Secretariat.

A delegation of opposition leaders comprising PML-N chairman and Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq, former NA speaker Ayaz Sadiq, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) leader Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri and PML-N lawmaker Rana Tanvir had met Speaker Asad Qaiser at his residence on Saturday and urged him to immediately summon the NA session, where they wanted to forcefully raise the issue of Shahbaz Sharif’s arrest.

The opposition members also urged the speaker to issue production order for Shahbaz Sharif under rules to enable him to attend the assembly session. They informed the speaker that a requisition for convening the session had already been submitted to the NA Secretariat. The speaker reportedly assured them that the session would be called within 14 days.

The sources said the PML-N leaders were also in contact with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and were hopeful of getting a positive response.

Only last week, the two parties had announced their decision to field joint candidates in the Oct 14 by-elections.

During an informal chat with reporters on Saturday, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had said the procedure adopted for the arrest of the opposition leader was improper, adding that it appeared prima facie that the law had not been followed in the matter. The PPP chairman said his party had no issues with accountability, but there must be no political victimisation in the name of accountability.

Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2018