PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz on Tuesday alleged that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had asked her to appear through a "vague" call-up notice in order to cause her harm.
She expressed these views while addressing a press conference in Lahore shortly after PML-N workers and police clashed outside NAB's office where she had arrived to record her statement in a case related to "illegal" acquisition of land in Raiwind.
The scene outside the building turned violent when the PML-N leader's caravan, which included several cars and hundreds of supporters on foot, reached outside the NAB premises on Multan Road.
Television footage showed men in plain clothes pelting stones at law enforcers, who were also seen assaulting some PML-N workers with batons, water cannons and tear gas. Several television channels also showed footage and pictures of cars, purportedly part of the PML-N caravan, laden with bags full of stones.
Accompanied by PML-N leaders Rana Sanaullah, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Marriyum Aurangzeb, the PML-N vice president said that the call-up notice did not contain any allegations against her and claimed that the anti-graft watchdog had tried to portray the opposite by releasing information to the media.
Reading from the call-up notice she claimed to have received from NAB, Maryam maintained that the notice was kept "vague" on purpose so that they had a reason to summon her.
"Now I can say that they summoned me to cause me harm," she said, adding that she most likely would have suffered a head injury had her car not been bulletproof.
"When my car reached near the NAB office, I was not aware that there was a sea of people. I didn't know because I couldn't see from the car.
"Suddenly tear gas shelling began and the people surrounding my car dispersed," she said, adding that that was when her vehicle was pelted with stones from behind the barricades placed in front of the NAB office.
"Pervez Rashid, who was with me in the car, told me to be thankful that I was in a bulletproof car when the windscreen smashed, otherwise the glass would have broken and the brick-like stones they threw would have hit my head because I was sitting in the front seat.
"So how am I supposed to construe this," she asked.
"They have to give answers. They have to give an answer as to why they used tax payers' money and money from the exchequer for political engineering."
She claimed that the reason behind summoning her once again was because the government was "panicking". "It is my personal opinion that their internal surveys [...] show that the PML-N's and Nawaz Sharif's popularity has risen.
"They have become worried because of their internal surveys. They are panicking."
Maryam added that all Prime Minister Imran Khan had previously wanted was to come into power, but the only reason he was now "stuck" to the seat was because he was afraid of leaving after inflicting so much pain and torture.
"Sticking to power is the only way he sees for his survival."
Maryam began her press conference by thanking party workers and her security guards who stood by her, calling the latter "unsung heroes". She added that the party would provide legal assistance to all those workers that had been arrested and detained in today's clash.
Maryam's uncle and PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif too condemned as "shameful" what he called "torture on the PML-N workers" outside the NAB office.
"The NAB-Niazi nexus has hit a new low and is writing another chapter of vendetta against the political workers," he said in a tweet, referring to Prime Minister Imran.
"NAB has become an instrument for the fulfilment of the political objectives of the Niazi regime."
'Stones were carried in Maryam's security vehicles'
Minutes after Maryam's press conference ended, Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat and Information Minister Fayazul Hassan Chohan of the PTI did a presser of their own to respond to the allegations levelled by the PML-N leader.
Basharat in his remarks said the type of "gunda gardi (thuggery)" seen outside the NAB office today was unprecedented in its 20-year history and even constitutional institutions and law-enforcement agencies were not safe from it.
He said the PML-N had "repeated its history of attacking the Supreme Court" by carrying out the violence and made it clear "to what extent it can go to save corrupt people". The media was a witness to all the events that unfolded outside NAB, the minister added.
He claimed that Maryam was summoned by NAB in a personal capacity but she "showed up with a juloos (rally)", which he said showed that the "PML-N doesn't respect institutions and can go to any extent to pressurise them."
Basharat accused Maryam of having "misused" the concession of bail granted to her by courts which he said does not allow anyone to attack constitutional and legal institutions.
"It is PML-N's misunderstanding that they can pressure institutions by charging onto them like this," he said.
According to the minister, the government "took the necessary steps in order to establish its writ" following the violence. He said "strict action" will be taken and cases will be registered against the people who tried to take the law into their hands, who allegedly threw stones and injured police and who illegally gathered outside the NAB office.
"The saddest part is that bags of stones were brought in Maryam's security vehicles which were then given out to workers and used to attack police and the NAB office. Our investigation so far shows the cars which carried stones had fake number plates; some of these security vehicles were kept in front of Maryam's car," he alleged, saying the excise department was verifying their ownership and cases would also be registered for falsifying the number plates.
Basharat said the violence "could have been avoided" if Maryam had gone to NAB alone or with a few workers. "I want to make it clear. You [Maryam] weren't summoned to cause you harm but for your deeds. You were called to account for your past wrongdoings," he added.
He said NAB in a communique had nominated a few people allegedly involved in the violence, adding that those persons were unnamed but they were being identified through CCTV footage.
He revealed that four injured security personnel were being treated at Jinnah Hospital while some were released after being administered first aid. He said cases would be lodged against the suspects responsible for causing injuries to police personnel and losses to state property and for interfering in the state's functions.
"Maryam said the stones were hurled from the front; they weren't. You [Maryam] carried them with you to use against the administration, police, and NAB," the minister said, adding that the government was moving forward on the issue based on footage captured by the media
He added that the PTI government believed in the rule of law. "I assure you, no concession will be given. Cases against the people arrested and nominated will be taken to their logical conclusion," he said.
"The PML-N should face the facts and account for their theft. If they provoke [authorities], they will have to pay for it."
Meanwhile, Chohan alleged that Maryam had carried out a "suicide attack" on the politics of her uncle, PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif, and cousin Hamza Shehbaz by allegedly ordering today's violence due to "internal family politics".
In what he termed as "breaking news", Chohan claimed that the PML-N had last night distributed Rs1 million among workers at Jaati Umra to throw stones at today's appearance by Maryam.
He said Maryam had "begged" workers to show up at her appearance by paying them off.
Chohan said Maryam had "accepted" that she owned 200 acres of land legally even though she had previously claimed she had no property in Pakistan.
He claimed that it was because of Maryam's "negative personality" and "mindset against state institutions" that the "funeral of PML-N's politics and respect" had been taken out.