Shahbaz lashes out at PM over ‘Kashmir sell-out’

Updated August 10, 2019

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Barbs fly in NA over arrest of opposition leaders in corruption cases. — Twitter/File
Barbs fly in NA over arrest of opposition leaders in corruption cases. — Twitter/File

ISLAMABAD: The rare unity of parliament seen on the issue of Kashmir during its recent joint session remained elusive in the Friday session of the National Assembly when leader of the opposition Shahbaz Sharif accused Prime Minister Imran Khan of selling the future of Kashmir.

The lawmakers of ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz continued to trade barbs over the alleged corruption and arrest of top opposition leaders, besides accusing one another of trying to appease Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on different occasions in the past.

The Indian government has recently revoked Article 370 and 35A changing the status of India-held Kashmir that has sparked protests across Kashmir and Pakistan.

In his fiery speech on the floor of the house, Mr Sharif said PM Khan had sold the future of Kashmir. He said there was a nexus between the government and the National Accountability Bureau. And the top leaders of the opposition parties were being arrested to divert public attention from the Kashmir issue, he added.

He condemned the arrest of his niece and PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz and nephew Yousuf Abbas in front of her father, ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif, in the jail on Thursday.

Barbs fly in NA over arrest of opposition leaders in corruption cases

“The recent arrests of PML-N and PPP leaders confirmed a nexus bet­ween the government and NAB,” he added.

He said it was quite humiliating that Maryam Nawaz was arrested in front of her jailed father. “Her arrest also established a link between the government and NAB as she was intentionally arrested when she was meeting her father in the jail. NAB officials could have arrested Maryam in her house or on her way to jail or the next day,” he added.

Mr Sharif said top leaders of the opposition parties including Maryam Nawaz, ex-PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Khwaja Saad Rafique, Rana Sanaullah, Hamza Shahbaz, Miftah Ismail and PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari were in jail or under custody. “But we are not afraid of such tactics and will never bow before the government,” he added.

He alleged that the atmosphere of harmony and unity created by the opposition in parliament on Kashmir issue was marred by the government to meet agenda of political victimisation.

“The opposition created an atmosphere of harmony after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to strip occupied Kashmir of its special status. But the government with the arrest of Maryam shredded that unity,” he added.

At that point, the opposition leader was interrupted by some treasury members but deputy speaker Qasim Suri asked the lawmakers to go back to their seats.

When Mr Sharif called PM Khan a “selected PM”, Mr Suri came to the PM’s rescue and said: “He is an elected prime minister just as the opposition leader is an elected man.”

Mr Sharif said former PM Nawaz Sharif and his family were being targeted just because he had pulled the country out of darkness, established motorways, provided jobs and raised the country’s GDP rate to over six per cent.

“But the present government due to its faulty policies and incapability had brought the economy on the verge of collapse,” he added.

Responding to the speech, Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood said NAB was an independent institution and if the Sharifs had committed corruption they should face the music. “It was your (Shahbaz Sharif’s) TT (telegraphic transaction) of $25 million traced by NAB,” he remarked.

PML-N lawmaker Khawaja Asif said Mr Mehmood had served under the then chief minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif as he had been made a director in Punjab Bank. “Shafqat Mehmood enjoyed millions of dollars given by the DFID [Department for International Development],” he added.

Refuting the allegation that the government was in league with NAB, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan said: “You should explain in court why you had received billions of dollars from abroad. The government of Pakistan cannot answer NAB.”

In response to opposition members’ allegation that the PTI government was trying to distract the nation from the Kashmir issue, the state minister recalled that Mr Modi had flown to Pakistan to attend the wedding of ex-PM Nawaz’s granddaughter. “It was not Imran Khan who had invited Modi, but you,” he added.

Former premier and PPP lawmaker Raja Pervez Ashraf, however, suggested to the treasury benches to put aside their differences with the opposition and adopt a united stance in the face of the unprecedented crisis in India-held Kashmir.

The session was prorogued before Friday prayers.

Pakistan has taken a number of steps—called a joint session of the parliament, hold National Security Council meeting, Prime Minister made contacts with international leaders to intervene and pressurize India to mend its ways.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2019