ISLAMABAD: There is gloom in Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf ranks as majority of the prominent party leaders feel ‘demoralised’ over the departure of former premier Nawaz Sharif to London that they believe may politically damage the ruling party, with its slogan of ‘One Law, One Pakistan’ fast losing credibility.
Background interviews with a number of key PTI members, including some federal ministers, reveal that during in-house discussions with Prime Minister Imran Khan on the matter on various occasions, the hawkish elements and old guards had strongly opposed the idea of giving unconditional permission to Mr Sharif to travel abroad on health grounds whereas government allies were putting pressure on the PM to let him go.
Sources said federal ministers Fawad Chaudhry and Faisal Vawda, besides Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Zulfi Bukhari, were the most vocal opponents of the idea, but there was one PTI member holding a key position in the federal cabinet who tried to persuade Mr Khan on various occasions to let the ex-PM leave the country.
Now people are justified in questioning ‘One Law, One Pakistan’ slogan, says Fawad
A federal minister claimed that the idea of making Mr Sharif’s departure conditional with the submission of over Rs7 billion indemnity bond had actually been floated by the National Accountability Bureau in a meeting of the special committee headed by Law Minister Farogh Nasim.
“The party is experiencing a sense of loss after Sharif’s departure,” said a senior PTI leader, who holds a key position in the government and remained a part of the consultative process. He said the leadership would have to work hard to pacify PTI loyalists and supporters who were feeling dejected, which was evident from their comments on social media.
“It was the same frustration that the PM vented in his speech on the occasion of Hazara motorway inauguration on Monday,” he added.
The PTI leader said there were two views within the party, but it would be wrong to say that there was any rift or division as a clear majority was opposing Mr Sharif’s departure.
He said those in favour of the permission argued that it would damage the PML-N, and not the PTI, while the government would get an opportunity to focus on governance and highlight its achievements, while those opposing the idea were of the opinion that the PTI would be negating its basic principle of equal justice for all and it would be an injustice to other prisoners in need of medical treatment.
The PTI leader said PM Khan was very much concerned about Mr Sharif’s health condition, but there were genuine legal hitches in allowing a convicted man to proceed abroad.
Another senior PTI leader, while referring to the photos that went viral on social media showing Mr Sharif sitting in special air ambulance with no apparent sign of illness, remarked: “What if tomorrow the nation sees pictures of the ex-premier shopping at Harrods in London.”
Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry, when contacted, said the PTI had been propagating its slogan “One Law, One Pakistan” for years, but after this move people would be justified to question them as it may lose its effectiveness.
Mr Chaudhry also expressed his surprise over the “delay” in Mr Sharif’s departure, saying if there was no emergency, why the PML-N had pleaded before the Lahore High Court to take up the case on a holiday. The case could have been heard on Monday, the minister said.
“It is Pakistan, and not the PTI or the PML-N that will ultimately suffer from the recent developments,” said a PTI lawmaker from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa while commenting on the PML-N supremo’s departure.
Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2019