Imran blamed for ‘overshadowing’ Erdogan’s statement on Kashmir

Updated February 19, 2020

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Prime Minister Imran Khan and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addressing a press conference during the latter's recent trip to Pakistan. — AFP/File
Prime Minister Imran Khan and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addressing a press conference during the latter's recent trip to Pakistan. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan’s remarks about initiating a treason case against Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman apparently “overshadowed” Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s historic statement on Kashmir before a joint sitting of parliament last week, claims the opposition.

The opposition was of the view that the prime minister’s “uncalled-for” statement after an hour of the Turkish president’s statement had undermined the whole two-day official visit of Mr Erdogan to Pakistan as PM Khan’s remarks had diverted the attention of the entire media and even parliament from the guest’s statement.

On the other hand, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said the opposition had harmed the Kashmir cause by taking part in JUI-F’s dharna (sit-in) at Islamabad’s Peshawar More in November last year when the government was highlighting at the international level the inhuman acts of India against innocent Kashmiris.

PM Khan had during an informal chat with a group of reporters at the Prime Minister House on Friday [Feb 14] said that a treason case should be initiated against Maulana Fazl for admitting that he had staged the sit-in to topple the government.

Opposition believes PM’s ‘uncalled-for’ remarks against JUI-F chief undermined visit of Turkish president

The controversial remarks by the prime minister got hype not only in the media, but also in the following separate sessions of the Senate and the National Assembly where legislators even forgot to give a vote of thanks to President Erdogan for supporting Pakistan’s point of view on Kashmir. They kept reacting to the prime minister’s remarks.

The opposition was of the view that if Mr Khan had not given such a statement, the speech of the Turkish president before the joint sitting of parliament would have made more traction in the media throughout the day.

Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said in a statement that PM Khan’s statement against the JUI-F chief had shifted the focus away from constructive discussion on Kashmir and Palestine because “he could never grow out of his petty container-top mindset”.

She slammed Mr Khan’s verbal indictment of the JUI-F chief as a traitor and said that the prime minister could not, even for one day, pose to be a reasonable representative of Pakis­tan with an acceptable stature because he just did not have it in him. “Imran could not regard President Erdogan’s presence for a day and step out of his vitriol spewing container mode because that was not an act, that’s the crass, prudish and uncultured person Imran really is,” she added.

The former information minister said Mr Khan’s immaturity and outrageous statement wasted all the gains of President Erdogan’s statement on Kashmir and Palestine.

“Whoever points out Imran’s corruption, incompetence and cluelessness would be dubbed a traitor? Whoever questions his blatant abuse of power is a traitor? Imran paralysed the country, delayed the Chinese president’s visit, incited people to drag sitting prime minister [Nawaz Sharif] by the throat, called for civil disobedience, incited people to circumvent banking transactions, burnt utility bills, undermined democracy with his umpire-finger narrative and all that is patriotic, but when someone like Fazlur Rehman stands up for the rights of people crushed by Imran’s incompetent regime, he is titled a traitor.

“If Imran isn’t corrupt, how come he funds his lavish cars and Banigala mansion without any significant sources of income? How did he buy a Rs130 million house in Lahore?”

Ms Marriyum added: “If Imran isn’t corrupt why is he not letting anyone expose the records of Jahangir Tareen and Khusro Bakhtiar’s sugar mills. If he is clean why doesn’t he form an investigative commission on historic Rs13,000 billion new loan. If he isn’t corrupt why did Imran not reprimand his ministers for ‘dacoity’ on people’s pockets through medicine cost spike, electricity and gas tariffs hike?”

She said Imran Khan, Jahangir Tareen and Khusro Bakhtiar were the only lynchpins responsible for the wheat and sugar mafia that created a crisis in Pakistan.

Collective national response

Meanwhile, Pakistan People Party’s (PPP) senior leader Farhatullah Babar said in a statement that PM Khan had never been serious about the Kashmir issue, his rhetoric notwithstanding.

“One feels that he deliberately chased and hounded the opposition to pre-empt a truly collective national response to a national challenge arising out of Aug 5 annexation of held Kashmir by India. Iran, Turkey and Malaysia are the only three countries of the OIC that stood solidly with Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. Yet he ditched them at the time of Kaula Lampur summit even though he had accepted the invitation,” he added.

Mr Babar said Mr Erdogan made a powerful speech on Kashmir before the joint session, but its impact was lost when PM Khan, for no apparent reason, suddenly changed the direction of public discourse by calling for initiating a treason case against the JUI-F chief and the media space and time had been diverted to a non-issue. “Whether it was deliberate or was result of stupidity, one thing is clear: Mr Khan’s incompetence is exposed as never before,” he added.

When contacted, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said: “If he [the PM] had said so then what. Please move forward. What is next?”

She said the prime minister was one of the biggest advocates for the Kashmir cause and, therefore, he had raised the issue effectively and vehemently at all international forums.

“If on one hand Imran Khan’s remarks are criticised, on the other credit goes to him for inviting United Nation Secretary General Antonio Guterres who also gave a big statement on Kashmir,” she said.

Dr Awan wondered why the opposition parties were now worried about Kashmir despite the fact that they had harmed the Kashmir cause when they climbed up on Maulana Fazlur Reh­man’s container in November last year amid the government’s all-out efforts to bring attention of the world to Indian aggression against Kashmiris.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2020