PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz on Friday said the military leadership "should not have been seen" with Prime Minister Imran Khan a day after the ruling PTI suffered what she called a "battering" in the recent Senate elections.
Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, she accused the premier of dragging the institutions into politics despite the military repeatedly asking politicians not to do so.
Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had met Imran at Prime Minister House on Thursday, a day after the much-hyped Senate polls took place. Director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence Lt Gen Faiz Hameed was also present during the meeting.
No statement on the meeting was issued by the Prime Minister's Office, which normally gives out press releases on such interactions. However, people were quick to link the meeting to the latest political developments in the country following the Senate elections in which the ruling coalition suffered an upset on the seat for the federal capital where Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh lost to the joint opposition candidate Yousuf Raza Gilani.
The shock defeat forced Prime Minister Imran to seek a vote of confidence from the National Assembly.
Speaking about the meeting today, Maryam said Prime Minister Imran had called and met the heads of institutions in the lawns of PM House "on the day he suffered a humiliating defeat [and] his members expressed a lack of confidence in him and voted against him".
"Is he not dragging the institutions into politics?" she said of the premier.
She noted that the Inter-Services Public Relations director general had repeatedly urged politicians not to drag the military into political matters. "I think instead of saying this to the public, he should tell Prime Minister Imran Khan sahib that 'you have lost, been humiliated, failed, and lost the trust of the people [...] so kindly do not drag us into this politics,'" she added.
Addressing the military leadership, she said: "You should not have been seen sitting with Imran Khan at any cost a day after he suffered a battering [and] faced the people's and public representatives' wrath, when he (Imran) was busy in machinations and rigging."
Speaking about the Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) statement issued in response to Prime Minister Imran's criticism of the body for conducting the Senate elections through secret ballot, Maryam said the whole nation and institutions now understood "what a mafia is and how they pressurise and defame institutions".
She said the ECP stand on holding the polls through secret ballot was not its personal opinion but a constitutional stance which was "more or less accepted by the SC". No institution except the parliament can amend the Constitution, she stressed.
The PML-N leader said the prime minister's "charge-sheet" against the ECP implied that the government had no problems with the commission in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab where it won Senate seats, "but because you lost on a single Islamabad seat that exposed you, then the ECP is bad?"
"Now even the institutions know who is making them controversial, they know who is bullying them," she said, adding that while the PML-N faced decisions even when they went against it, the government faulted the institutions when the results were not in its favour.
Answering a question, Maryam she was surprised that Saturday's National Assembly session, in which Prime Minister Imran will seek a vote of confidence, had been called under Article 91(7). "I congratulate the president for summoning the session and saying that the prime minister has lost the confidence of the people," she said, adding that the president too had accepted "what everyone saw in Daska, Nowshera" and other by-elections.
"The summary sent by the president accepts that Imran has lost the confidence of the public and I demand that this summary be made public."
She asked how Imran could seek a vote of confidence from the same lawmakers that he had accused of selling their votes in the Senate polls.
"The no-confidence [vote] against you has already happened," Maryam told the prime minister. "Your people have voted against you and now you are asking them to come and say that you are incompetent to your face. They have done that already ... now you are asking them to come out in the open and threatening them with photos of meetings with institutions and disqualification."
She claimed that "if your president is saying that you have lost confidence then this country doesn't have a prime minister right now."
'Institutions had to back down'
Maryam questioned the PTI's decision to challenge the ECP order for re-election in the NA-75 (Daska) constituency, asking the party why it was "hiding behind the Supreme Court" if it claimed to have the people's support. "Come out in the field and fight on the ground in the public's court [...] but you are scared because you know you have lost the case in the eyes of the public," she told the PTI leadership.
Asked about the establishment's role in the Senate elections, she said: "Institutions had to back down and are not openly supporting the [government] now and this is a vindication of Mian sahib's stance."
"The people's eyes are on you, even your own institution is watching you," she told the institutions. "If you try to save Imran Khan's sinking boat and pressurise [PTI] members through phone calls, then the people of Pakistan will deal with you. It doesn't suit you to stand behind this incompetent, criminal government."
Answering another question about PML-N candidates possibly shifting loyalties ahead of the upcoming general elections in Azad Kashmir, Maryam said the PML-N parliamentary party in AJK was standing united.
"This is a changed party now, PML-N is not the same [as in the past]. If you try to steal our vote, you will not be allowed to do so and face the same result as in Daska. If you try to steal our mandate like in GB then the consequences will be really bad."