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Shahbaz used NA floor for NAB’s media trial: Imran

Updated October 21, 2018

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Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president and Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif.— File
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president and Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif.— File

ISLAMABAD: Declaring the opposition as a “gang of criminals”, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday accused Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president and Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif of using the floor of the house to malign the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Talking to two groups of foreign journalists and local TV anchors on Saturday, Mr Khan stated in categorical terms that his government’s campaign against corruption would continue at all costs and that he would not succumb to any pressure.

According to Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, who was present in both meetings, besides discussing the political situation in Pakistan, the prime minister also talked about the state of economy and apprised the journalists about the steps being taken by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government to steer the country out of crisis.

PM says bureaucrats are creating hurdles; poverty alleviation package to be unveiled next week

Mr Chaudhry quoted the prime minister as saying the government would not strike any deal with the opposition over the issue of corruption and no corrupt person would be spared. “A lot of politicians are criminals. We have enough evidence [to ensure] criminals won’t escape,” Mr Khan added.

“I will not spare any thief or a criminal,” the minister quoted Mr Khan as having stated during his interaction with the media. The prime minister declared that those who had brought the country to the present state would not be spared.

Mr Khan was of the view that the opposition leader had used the floor of the assembly to carry out “media trial” of NAB.

Reacting to the opposition’s protest over the arrest of the opposition leader and PML-N president, Mr Khan said that Shahbaz Sharif was trying to become Nelson Mandela — a former South African president and peace activist who had to spend 27 years in prison due to his political struggle.

While speaking during the opposition-requisitioned session of the National Assembly, Shahbaz Sharif had assailed NAB for alleged ‘political victimisation’ and disclosed details of his interrogation by the watchdog alleging that there was an ‘unholy alliance’ between the ruling PTI and NAB.

The PML-N president, who had been allowed to attend the sitting on the production order of Speaker Asad Qaiser, in his nearly 80-minute speech, had also alleged that he had been offered to become approver in cases against former foreign minister and PML-N stalwart Khwaja Asif.

Mr Sharif, who had been brought to Islamabad for the session only a day after an accountability court in Lahore had extended his remand for two weeks in the Ashiyana housing scam, also alleged that he was being kept in a windowless cell with no light and air passage and that he had been arrested without any charges in a “crude manner”. He claimed that the NAB chairman had signed his arrest orders in the first week of July and the orders were used just before the recent by-elections. According to Fawad Chaudhry, the prime minister at one stage called Shahbaz Sharif “fake Mandela”.

Civil bureaucracy

The PM, the information minister said, complained that the civil bureaucracy was creating administrative hurdles in the way of the government.

Mr Khan said most of the bureaucrats had been appointed by the previous PML-N government and his government was not getting “fullest cooperation” from them. He expressed the hope that the situation would improve and the bureaucracy would take some time to change.

About the ongoing criticism of the government for seeking foreign loans, Mr Khan said that approaching the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout package was not a big issue. The problem was the conditions attached to it, he added. He said the government was making every effort to negotiate a deal with the IMF so that its conditions would not have any direct impact on the less privileged.

“The country would make an economic comeback in the next six to eight months,” Mr Khan was quoted to have stated.

Mr Chaudhry said the premier also disclosed in the meeting that the government would announce next week a special programme aimed at alleviation of poverty and to provide support to the marginalised segments of society.

According to the information minister, the PM said efforts were under way to reduce line losses through improvement in the power distribution system. He said the government was also taking steps to improve investments and to bring foreign remittances through legal banking channels.

Published in Dawn, October 21st , 2018