LAHORE: Fissures in the PML-N are emerging following the controversial statement of former National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq on the ‘hasty’ decision of sending an Indian pilot captured by Pakistan back, after his plane was shot down by PAF jets.

On the other hand, the PML-N senior leadership that held a huddle at Jati Umra residence of deposed premier Nawaz Sharif here on Saturday to discuss the ‘pressure’ on the party in the wake of Mr Sadiq’s statement, declared that it backed the ex-speaker and the narrative of its Quaid Nawaz Sharif – ‘give respect to the ballot’.

They also reiterated their resolve to continue the party’s struggle against the ‘selected’ government of Imran Khan till it was sent packing.

While, PML-N senior leader retired Lt-Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch, MPAs Jehangir Khanzada and Jalil Sharqpuri have already opposed the party leadership over its ‘anti-establishment’ narrative, former MNA from Okara Mansab Dogar also formally announced quitting the PML-N over Mr Sadiq’s statement.

Interestingly, Mr Dogar had distanced himself from the party ahead of the 2018 polls and contested the election as an independent candidate.

When asked about Mr Baloch’s differences with the party, PML-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal said: “If Abdul Qadir Baloch wants to resign, it will be his choice.”

Replying to a question about another party leader and ex-chief minister of Balochistan, Mr Sanaullah Zehri, Mr Iqbal said: “There had been differences between BNP-M chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal and PML-N leader Sanaullah Zehri and that was why the latter was not invited to the Quetta rally of the PDM.”

The PML-N huddle was presided over by party’s senior vice-president Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Vice president Maryam Nawaz, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Ahsan Iqbal, Pervaiz Rashid, Rana Sanaullah, Marriyum Auranzeb, Khurram Dasgir, Saad Rafique, Javed Latif and Attaullah Tarar were also present.

The PML-N has come under ‘extreme pressure’ from different quarters after Mr Sadiq in the lower house of the parliament on Wednesday last, claimed that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had during the post-Pulwama military stand-off with India urged the opposition parties at a meeting of the parliamentary groups to let the captured Indian pilot go back because India was set to attack Pakistan that night.

The Pakistan Army had categorically declared that the captured Indian pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan’s release last year was an effort by a “responsible state” to give peace a chance, as it rejected the assertion that he was set free because of the alleged threat of Indian attack.

Mr Sadiq blamed the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leaders for linking his statement to the Pakistan Army to target the PML-N. “Keep the Pak armed forces out of this political fight,” Mr Sadiq asked the PTI to clarify his statement.

The PML-N leaders backed Mr Saqid and condemned the ongoing campaign against him, saying the PTI government had been doing so to divert the attention of the masses from unprecedented price hike, inflation and unemployment.

“Under the influence of Indian media the narrative of treason is a reflection of a defeated mindset,” a party statement said after the meeting. It said the party would not leave the arena and was ready to face hardships for the narrative of Nawaz Sharif and democracy.

The meeting also condemned Prime Minister Imran Khan for allegedly ordering Punjab prisons IG not to provide any facilities to PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and his son Hamza.

“Selected Imran Khan’s fascism, madness driven by political revenge, his illegal actions cannot save his already shaky government from falling,” the meeting declared.

Maryam Nawaz announced the ‘Sher Jawan’ campaign to “change the destiny of the nation in accordance with the principles of Quadi-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah”.

It is likely that she would address rallies under this campaign in the province in coming days.

Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2020

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