PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah on Monday asked the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) not to "put obstacles" in the way of PML-N workers who plan to accompany the party's vice president Maryam Nawaz during her appearance before the watchdog on March 26.
Speaking to reporters in Lahore, Sanaullah said the NAB should have the courage to allow PML-N supporters to join Maryam upon her arrival, assuring that they would remain peaceful.
"Our workers should not be stopped. When they (NAB) have summoned PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz then they should show courage [and] allow people to gather there to express solidarity with her and not put any obstacles in the way," he said.
Last Wednesday, NAB had summoned Maryam to appear before it on March 26 in a money laundering investigation in connection with the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case after a gap of seven months.
Before this, the accountability watchdog had not summoned Maryam since August last when violence erupted outside its Lahore headquarters on her arrival to record her statement in an investigation against her.
Maryam is facing two inquiries — money laundering and illegal land acquisition in Raiwind. Both investigations have been pending against her for quite some time.
Sanaullah, in his remarks, said the notice issued to Maryam was "illegal" and "unconstitutional" and should be withdrawn.
In response to a question, he said the PML-N reserved its right to protest if Maryam was arrested in the "illegal" inquiry.
Sanaullah claimed that during Maryam's last appearance before the NAB, the bureau's office had been sealed up to a kilometre from all four sides, and asked NAB not to repeat the same and allow supporters to reach the office.
"I take responsibility that none of our workers will resort to any sort of violence," the PML-N leader said. "We will gather there to express solidarity with our leader in a peaceful manner."
He said that during Maryam's last appearance, police had baton-charged PML-N workers when Maryam's car was crossing the barriers erected by the authorities. This led to the situation turning violent and stone-pelting was started by both sides, he claimed.
Sanaullah further claimed that no one had any confidence in the NAB, which he accused of only following the diktats of Adviser to the Prime Minister on Interior and Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar.
On Sunday, Pakistan Democratic Movement president Maulana Fazlur Rehman had said that "hundreds of thousands" of party workers would accompany Maryam during her appearance before the accountability watchdog.
Maryam, meanwhile, said she would appear before NAB officials on March 26 but warned that the PML-N would fully resist if the agency tried to do anything "wrong" there.
“The time for offering sacrifices is over … Now it’s time to seek accountability,” she told a PML-N youth convention, adding that it was a thing of the past when the NAB could pick anyone from anywhere.
'Threatening attack on NAB'
Reacting to her statements, the ruling PTI on Monday tweeted that "Maryam wants to escape accountability by threatening an attack on NAB, which is extremely shameful."
"Not surprising as she is the daughter of Nawaz Sharif who ordered the attack on Supreme Court. Just like all other attempts, this NRO plea will fail too," it wrote.
Federal Planning Minister Asad Umar while referring to the PML-N leadership said: "Those whose threats can't even scare a mosquito are threatening the state and institutions daily. You are unable to gather supporters and are threatening an attack on NAB.
"[You] will not get an NRO no matter how much you cry."
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz blasted the opposition for supporting Maryam in what he called her "unlawful and immoral" actions.
He said her alleged behaviour of threatening NAB and using her political platform for her personal interests was "dangerous", adding, however, that her "threats" from yesterday seemed to be pointed towards PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari.
Faraz said Maryam, instead of answering questions about her alleged corruption, was trying all the tactics to escape the law and force authorities to decide the cases against her under pressure or fear.
"We fully condemn the threat she's given for March 26," Faraz said, adding that the PML-N had a history of such behaviour, citing the attack on the Supreme Court and the violence during Maryam's previous appearance at NAB.
"We want to tell [the PML-N] that neither the government will come under pressure through such behaviour nor will our leader, Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose reason for being famous is that he doesn't come under pressure or fear of anyone," the minister added.
Process started to declare NAB Lahore a Red Zone
In response to the PML-N's plans to gather workers in large numbers during Maryam's appearance, NAB has decided to request the assistance of the Rangers and police in order to "make the security of NAB Lahore's building foolproof", the bureau said in a statement issued on Monday.
"A request is being made to the relevant officials to declare NAB Lahore a Red Zone in view of the reported security threats," the press release added.
It said the measures were being taken on the basis of media reports regarding alleged plans of "some NAB accused, workers of political parties and other persons to raid the NAB Lahore building, pelt stones, create obstacles in the performance of NAB's official duties, and to damage the NAB Lahore building".
"On this occasion, NAB has clarified that it will always continue to play its role ... for the elimination of corruption from the country and to recover the public's billions of rupees of looted money from the corrupt elements without paying heed to any threat or pressure," read the statement.