Lahore: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Communication Dr Shahbaz Gill talking to media on Sunday.—APP
Lahore: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Communication Dr Shahbaz Gill talking to media on Sunday.—APP

ISLAMABAD: The government on Sunday termed the opposition’s multiparty conference (MPC) an attempt to pressure it into backing off from accountability as Prime Minister Imran Khan showed political maturity by allowing PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, who is facing corruption cases, to address the moot through video link from London.

“The opposition’s all-parties conference was a flimsy attempt to put pressure on the government to back off from accountability,” said Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz in a statement.

He said the nation had witnessed the opposition using politics for personal gains and using the parliament to protect their personal empires.

The minister said live speech of Mr Sharif had exposed his illness before the nation. “He looked healthy and fine during his virtual address and his speech has proved again that he used his illness as a trick to leave the country,” he added.

About Mr Sharif’s remarks that their (the opposition’s) struggle was not against Prime Minister Khan but against those who had brought him into power, the minister said the PML-N supremo should be asked about his narrative against national institutions and the institutions should take notice of his remarks.

Minister asks institutions to take notice of Nawaz’s remarks

Mr Faraz said Mr Sharif’s speech depicted opposition to the Financial Action Task Force-related bills and a campaign against state institutions. “It should be probed as to whose narrative Nawaz Sharif is following,’ he added.

A day before the MPC, the government had given an impression that it would not allow Mr Sharif to address the event as he is a proclaimed offender. However, the prime minister allowed him to address the MPC. “Prime Minister Khan allowed broadcast of Nawaz Sharif’s address as we believe in independence of media that even criticises the incumbent government,” Mr Faraz said.

He said National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Javed Iqbal had been appointed after consultation between the PML-N and the PPP and they even did not bother to change the laws on the accountability watchdog during their tenures. “The opposition parties started to raise hue and cry when corruption cases against their leaders emerged,” he said, adding that their struggle was only aimed at concealing their corrupt practices.

Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi termed the MPC a meeting of what he called “mafia” leaders. “They (opposition leaders) are meeting like mafia leaders meet to get their share in bounty,” he said.

The minister said the opposition’s planned long march plan would not affect the government. “Let them (opposition) stage a long march or a short march. It does not matter,” he added.

He said Mr Sharif had announced a war against the nation by saying he was not against Imran Khan but those who had brought him into power. “Imran Khan came into the power with the power of people’s vote.”

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill said at a press conference that the accountability process would continue at any cost no matter how many MPCs the opposition held. “The government would implement two agendas: one of human development and the other of accountability.”

Mr Gill said those who were going to attend the MPC were “big thieves” and the event was a gathering of the elite which had never let the poor segments of society rise.

He said the entire Sharif family, who used to consider themselves kings of Punjab, were present today as “courtiers” before Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

About cases against the Sharif family, Mr Gill said they were afraid of accountability. He wondered as to what were the businesses which helped Shahbaz Sharif increase his assets by 1,000 per cent.

He said the main purpose behind the MPC was to get an NRO, a deal through which they could get away with their illegal wealth. “Dr Asim is facing money laundering charges of Rs462 billion, Mr Bhutto-Zardari of Rs5bn, Sharjeel Memon of Rs5bn and Agha Siraj Durrani of over Rs1bn. Khursheed Shah is facing charges of having amassed illegal assets worth Rs500bn,” he alleged.

The PM’s aide said: “These two groups are meeting today at the MPC and the third group is one which offers ‘rent a crowd’. Maulana [Fazlur Rehman] uses children for his political motives who come to madressahs to acquire religious education.”

Mr Gill said when the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf came into power, the country’s economy was in a shambles and Prime Minister Khan strived to stabilise the national economy.

Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid said the prime minister would never resign and instead would complete his five-year term. “No resignation will be given and no long march will destablise the government,” he said.

He claimed that Nawaz Sharif would never return to the country and would instead get political asylum in the United Kingdom, where he was presently staying in connection with medical treatment.

Mr Rashid said all prominent opposition leaders who were facing NAB cases would be imprisoned by December this year.

He said the opposition was avoiding the option of no-confidence move against the prime minister and their (opposition) parliamentarians would never tender their resignations.

The PM’s Adviser on Accountability Shahzad Akbar said the opposition leaders had gathered to cover up their corruption. “If they are innocent they should return to the country and face cases in the courts,” he added.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2020