LONDON: Exactly a week after former prime minister Nawaz Sharif made a fiery speech criticising the military’s alleged interference in political matters, nearly two dozen young men gathered outside Avenfield House on Sunday evening and yelled slogans against him.
According to footage available with Dawn, over 20 young men in hoods and face masks gathered on Dunraven Street, across from the PML-N leader’s home, to shout “Go Nawaz Go”.
Many of them held A4 sheets with the words “We stand with Pak Army” printed on them, as well as one that read “Nawaz Sharif is a thief”.
Sharif family sources said the protesters hurled abuses and swear words in Punjabi, and that the Metropolitan Police were informed about the incident at 4pm. By the time the police vehicle arrived, the crowd had dispersed, leaving behind their posters. The sources said a complaint has been lodged with the police. In a statement to Dawn, the police said: “Police were called at 16.20hrs on 27 September to Dunraven Street to reports of a group of people protesting in the street. Officers attended and the groups were dispersed.”
Nawaz had made the speech to the multiparty conference via video link on September 20 from his son Hussain Nawaz’s office across Hyde Park. Since the speech and the MPC’s hard-hitting resolution demanding an end to alleged establishment meddling, Islamabad has seen a charged public debate about the alleged role of the armed forces in matters of civilian governance. The post-MPC period has also witnessed a flurry of disclosures and clarifications in which sources asserted the army is not involved in political matters.
The opposition party’s supreme leader, who launched his Twitter account just a day ahead of the MPC, recently posted a statement barring his party to hold individual, private or delegation-level meetings with country’s military leadership. The tweet says if necessitated by national security or constitutional requirements, such meetings in the future will be approved by the party leadership and will be made public.
The tweet came after director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations Major General Babar Iftikhar told a private channel, ARY News, that Mohammad Zubair of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz had met the army and intelligence chiefs ahead of the MPC to discuss the ongoing cases against the embattled PML-N leadership. Earlier, Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed said opposition MNAs met the army and ISI chiefs to discuss the upcoming polls in Gilgit-Baltistan. These revelations created the impression that the opposition parties, including the PML-N, have been meeting the army leadership for backdoor negotiations.
In his tweet, Nawaz said: “Recent events once again prove how some meetings remain hidden behind seven veils while others are given the colour of choice through publicising them. This game should now stop.”
He added that he was prohibiting his party members from meeting representatives of military or associated agencies in order to fulfill “requisites of Constitution of Pakistan and to remind the armed forces to comply with their oath”.
The deposed prime minister has been in the UK since November 2019 after getting bail from the court on medical grounds and securing permission from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government. His doctors said he is suffering from complicated cardiac disease and an immune system disorder that resulted in a dangerously low platelet count.
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) earlier this month dismissed his application seeking exemption from personal appearance in the hearing of appeals against his conviction in the Al-Azizia and Avenfield properties references and issued non-bailable arrest warrants for him.
Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2020