ISLAMABAD: Cabinet members Fawad Chaudhry, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Asad Umar and Shibli Faraz pictured during a press conference on Monday.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star
ISLAMABAD: Cabinet members Fawad Chaudhry, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Asad Umar and Shibli Faraz pictured during a press conference on Monday.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star

ISLAMABAD: The government on Monday termed the speech of former premier Nawaz Sharif at the opposition’s multiparty conference (PMC) “anti-Pakistan” and said Prime Minister Imran Khan was leading the country and the army was assisting him in important national affairs.

At a joint press conference, a day after the MPC, senior federal ministers Shah Mehmood Qure­shi, Asad Umar, Fawad Chaudhry and Shibli Faraz, while responding to the opposition leaders’ spe­e­ches and their decision to launch a three-phased anti-government movement from next month, said the opposition, especially Pakis­tan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), had pleased “anti-Pakistan forces” by levelling allegations against national institutions like the army, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

“Nawaz Sharif promoted the agenda of anti-Pakistan forces as Indian media gave top slot to Nawaz’s remarks with headlines ‘Nawaz has declared a war against Pakistan Army’,” Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said.

He said that in the current set-up, the army and civilian leadership were working together to solve the country’s problems, and there was “no doubt that the leadership is with Prime Minister Imran Khan [and] he makes the decisions”.

Accuses opposition of pleasing enemies by levelling allegations against national institutions

“If this is not disturbed and if cracks are not developed, the opposition and enemy forces think that Pakistan will not be stopped on the way to progress,” he added.

Mr Umar said the prime minister had stated at the start of his government’s tenure that “the opposition has everything at stake ... and when accountability moves forward they will all get together”, adding that Sunday’s MPC was a manifestation of the premier’s “words coming true”.

He said the opposition hoped that “the economic recession they left behind would be enough to oust the government”, but the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government brought the country out of the economic crisis.

“Then came the global coronavirus crisis. If you look at the initial days, these [opposition] leaders had a lot of enthusiasm [and] some came running back from Lon­don in the hopes that destruction and devastation would befall Pakistan, and [they] would make that the basis of finishing the government. What I found entertaining in yesterday’s speech was that the people who did not leave a single thing to criticise in Pakistan, did not mention corona or Covid,” he said, adding that international bodies were praising Pakistan’s response to the pandemic.

Mr Umar accused the opposition of “doing politics” on legislation related to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which, he said, had “nothing to do with a political party or person and is only for keeping us out of the [FATF] blacklist”. He said the opposition had tried to directly “blackmail” the government on the FATF bills to obtain an NRO-like concession.

“But even in that they were defeated. They can’t even control 200 members in the Senate and National Assembly, so their panic reached another level,” he said, adding that the passage of the anti-money laundering law had also panicked the opposition members because “their own properties are now in danger”.

The minister said the armed forces had through operations ended terrorism in districts of the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas, while the security situation in Karachi also improved and a development package was announced for the city. Prime Minister Imran also called for a development package to be announced for Balochistan, he added.

Referring to Nawaz Sharif’s speech, he said Indian news outlets were all reporting that “he has returned to politics...and how? by attacking the army.”

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, in response to Mr Sharif’s remarks, asked the opposition not to drag national institutions into politics. “It is not good for the country, it is not in Pakistan’s interest,” he said.

The PML-N supreme leader, while addressing the opposition’s MPC via video link from London, had alleged that there was “a state above the state in the country”. Breaking his over two-year-long silence, Mr Sharif declared that the opposition’s struggle was not against Prime Minister Khan but against “those who had imposed such an incapable person” upon the nation through a manipulated electoral process.

Mr Qureshi said the opposition’s MPC was a “bundle of lies” and the happiest one on the event was India. He said the opposition had given a call for rallies and demonstrations in January next year without realising that the threat of Covod-19 was not over and experts believed that a second wave of the deadly disease could come again in winter.

Talking about the opposition’s defeat in the recent joint session of parliament in which the government had managed to get passed eight bills, including three FATF-related laws, Mr Qureshi said the opposition had to look into its own ranks as to who was with it and who was not.

Information Minister Shibli Faraz said Prime Minister Khan had allowed the regulators to let media air live speech of Nawaz Sharif. He said the PML-N supremo had in his speech raised suspicions about the election process because his party was unable to garner votes in the 2018 elections and because he was “not used to a free and fair election”.

“Nawaz Sharif came into power three times after winning elections but all these elections were right, but the one in which he lost [2018 elections] was unfair,” Mr Faraz said, adding that when things were according to their [opposition leaders] plan, they were okay, but when things turned against them they were wrong.

He said the opposition leaders were not helping democracy but trying to derail it only for their personal interests, adding that they pointed an accusing finger at the election system but did nothing to make electoral reforms in the country when they were in power. “The country has given you a lot so don’t make the election and democracy controversial,” he added.

The information minister said Mr Sharif in his address on Sunday looked quite healthy and fresh contrary to the latter’s claim that he was ill and staying in London for his medical treatment.

Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said the country’s judiciary had given unprecedented relief to Nawaz Sharif but the latter also lashed out at the judiciary in his speech.

He said the government knew that Nawaz Sharif would not return to the country when he was going to the United Kingdom for medical treatment and that was the reason he was asked to submit Rs7 billion as surety bond. “But it was the judiciary who relaxed it, allowing Nawaz Sharif to leave the country,” he added.

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2020