Opposition takes exception to ‘traitor’ charge

Published October 5, 2020
In this file photo, PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto- Zardari, PML-N Shehbaz Sharif and National Party President Hasil Bizenjo address the media after a joint opposition meeting. — DawnNewsTV screengrab
In this file photo, PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto- Zardari, PML-N Shehbaz Sharif and National Party President Hasil Bizenjo address the media after a joint opposition meeting. — DawnNewsTV screengrab

ISLAMABAD: The country’s major opposition parties — the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — have criticised the government’s “latest policy” of labelling its opponents as traitors and said such tactics had never worked in the past.

“For democratic political workers being labelled rebellious is a medal,” declared Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, the official spokesman for PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zar­dari, in a statement. He also welcomed the rise of “anti-establishment voices from Punjab for the first time”.

Similarly, president of the PML-N’s Punjab chapter and MNA Rana Sanaullah, in a statement, said that by labelling the opposition leaders as “traitor and Indian agents”, the government had admitted the failure of its earlier narrative that its opponents were corrupt.

The PPP senator said that this 70-year-old “exhausted stance” had now been rejected by Punjab too, after three other provinces, adding that “the whole country is against the hybrid system”. He said that such labels and charges had been pressed against the founding father’s sister Fatima Jinnah, then Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto in the past.

“Those who have been labeled traitors are real heroes of the country while those labeling them traitors are themselves losing,” Mr Khokhar said.

“Habib Jalib’s dream has come true. Punjab too is now awake, and is standing just like Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan,” he said, adding that like the politicians of other three provinces, the political leaders and workers of Punjab were also now facing treason charges.

Mr Khokhar said that supremacy of parliament, rule of constitution, basic human rights, freedom of the people and that of the media could not be compromised at any cost.

The statements from the leaders of the two parties came a day after registration of a sedition case against the PML-N’s retired Captain Mohammad Safdar in Gujranwala on Saturday and in the backdrop of recent remarks of Prime Minister Imran Khan and his aides in which they had alleged that PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif was targeting the Army at India’s behest.

In a TV interview last week, the prime minister had alleged that Mr Sharif was playing a dangerous game by maligning the Army at the behest of India.

“This is a dangerous game Nawaz is playing; Altaf Hussain played the same game, and I am 100 per cent sure that India is helping Nawaz,” the prime minister had said in the interview.

Later, speaking at a news conference in Lahore on Saturday, Special Assistant to the PM on Political Communication Dr Shahbaz Gill had also alleged that Mr Sharif was targeting the Army because it questioned him for what he called his anti-state activities in league with Indian premier Narendra Modi and his “business partnership” with Indian businessman Sajjan Jindal, whom he secretly met in Murree.

Mr Gill had also alleged that Mr Sharif and his government were not immediately inclined to announce that Pakistan had apprehended Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav and it was retired Lt-Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa who made frantic efforts to convince the Sharif government to announce Jadhav’s arrest because such an announcement by the Army would have been seen as if Pakistan’s political government didn’t own it.

He had also said that Mr Sharif had held secret one-on-one meetings with Mr Modi and Mr Jindal while keeping the defence institutions at bay — in sheer violation of state protocols being observed the world over.

Responding to Mr Gill’s press conference and recent statements of Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, PML-N’s Rana Sanaullah asked Director General of the Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR) Maj-Gen Babar Iftikhar to clarify if the Railways minister and the SAPM had become official spokespersons for the Army.

“The institution will have to clarify whether these rented spokespersons represent it or not,” he said.

The PML-N leader said that the allegations of being traitor and Indian agent based on the “rejected narrative” meant nothing for Mr Sharif.

He alleged that the prime minister was making the national institutions controversial for political gains. He said that through the statements that the government and the army were on the same page, “these self-proclaimed spokespersons for the army are dragging those institutions into politics whose impartiality is required under the constitution and for national security”.

Mr Sanaullah asked the army leadership to take notice of the efforts of making the armed forces controversial through a “dangerous game”.

Meanwhile, speaking at a news conference for the second consecutive day, PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said that the opposition was not scared of the government’s narrative of labelling it as traitor. She said that the nation knew that it was Nawaz Sharif who made the country a nuclear power.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2020

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