Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz was getting away with using offensive language against the country's military leadership because women are respected in Pakistan.
Addressing a public gathering after inaugurating the Sehat Sahulat Cards programme in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Swat district, he once again vowed not to give any "NRO" (National Reconciliation Ordinance-like concession) to the opposition, saying its leaders had all joined hands to protect their "theft".
He said Maryam, by "taking advantage" of the respect for women, was using inappropriate "language" against an army that was giving sacrifices for the nation on a daily basis and at a time when an "extremist Indian prime minister" who hated Muslims was oppressing Kashmiris, and his national security adviser was threatening Pakistan.
Analyse: What does Nawaz Sharif want?
"I assure you, if it had been another country, she would have been thrown into jail. But because we respect women here, she is allowed to speak openly," he added.
Referring to the opposition's Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliances, the premier said all of Pakistan's "biggest thieves" had gathered on one platform because they thought they were above the law.
"One goes to London and acts like he is very ill and we all feel sorry for him," he said, referring to PML-N supremo and Maryam's father Nawaz Sharif. "Even the courts felt sorry for him and asked the government to allow him to go abroad. I asked the courts to at least take guarantee of Rs7 billion from him but eventually he went abroad."
Imran said after going to London, Nawaz and his daughter were initially silent and tried "their best" to gain an "NRO" but when the PML-N leader realised the government would not give him any relief despite "blackmail", he (Nawaz) started attacking the armed forces.
"The game he has started to attack the Pakistan Army and the Pakistani judiciary ... he is asking the armed forces to replace their army and ISI chiefs, meaning he is asking the army to revolt against the army chief to protect his own money. Who could be a bigger enemy of the country?" the prime minister said, referring to Nawaz.
"Nawaz Sharif is speaking like jackals (geedar) while sitting abroad [and] his sons have also absconded abroad after stealing money," he added.
Disqualified prime minister Nawaz, in his speeches from London while addressing the anti-government rallies of PDM, has alleged that Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and ISI chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed orchestrated his ouster in 2017 and rigged the 2018 general elections to "impose the ‘incompetent’ Imran Khan" on the nation.
The premier as well as government ministers reacted strongly to Nawaz's accusations and blasted the opposition parties for what they said was "promoting the enemies’ narrative" and attacking state institutions.
On Friday, Prime Minister Imran said this was a "decisive time" in the country when Nawaz and PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, who used to "accuse each other of being corrupt for 30 years", had now joined hands to ask for an NRO from the government.
"Do you think he (Nawaz) should be given an NRO?" he asked the crowd. The premier said the day he gives an NRO to "these thieves" to protect his position would be the day when he commits "the biggest treason against my country".
Imran said the country would only progress if it had rule of the law. He said the government was making efforts to turn Pakistan into a welfare state based on the model of the 'state of Madina'.
Appreciating KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan for providing health cards to the people, he noted that it was the first province to offer health coverage to its entire population.
He said the government would enable the poor to own their own homes through the Naya Pakistan Housing Programme at affordable rates. He said the government was also working on introducing a uniform curriculum throughout the country for English and Urdu medium schools and madressah students which would give a chance to children of the poor to progress.
Imran Khan seeking NRO from us: Maryam
Shortly after his speech, Maryam lashed out at Prime Minister Imran over governance and inflation, and said the premier himself was "seeking an NRO" from the opposition.
"He keeps saying 'I won't give NRO'. Today I am announcing that he is now asking for an NRO from us," she told a large public meeting in Skardu.
Maryam, who is on a seven-day visit to Gilgit-Baltistan to lead the party’s election campaign, said the PML-N would not give NRO to the "selected" prime minister. "You were 'selected' earlier, now you are 'rejected'," she added while addressing Prime Minister Imran.
She accused the premier of having come into power by "stealing" the people's vote and "snatching" food and jobs from the poor through incompetent governance.
"Now when this government has entered its final days, neither rigging and those who do rigging nor the product of rigging Imran Khan will survive," she said, adding that Pakistan had "no other option" than Nawaz Sharif if it was to progress.
Maryam asked the youth of GB to stand up for their rights but not accept as "charity" what they rightfully deserved. "This is not the future of my youth that if they write something on Facebook or Twitter, a Vigo comes at night and takes them away," she said.
Without naming anyone, she said "they" had broken away nine PML-N candidates, and urged the crowd not to vote for 'lotas' (turncoats).
"The place of lotas is in bathrooms," she said, asking how a person "who cannot take a little pressure of the selectors and the selected" could stand for the people. She also urged her own party's leadership not to give election tickets to any lota in the future.
She said "the people planning to do rigging" should remember that Pakistan had changed in the two years since 2018, when the PTI came into power.
Maryam accused the government of having made false promises of jobs and cheap housing to the people and taking loans from the International Monetary Fund despite vowing not to go to the IMF. She also mocked the premier over the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, saying its buses "catch fire" in spite of the money and time invested in the service.
"He (PM Imran) only holds power in causing inflation, stealing people's livelihoods, changing loyalties and in polishing boots," she alleged.
"The person who cannot stand for his self-respect can never earn respect for you," she told the participants.