CHARSADDA: Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Mian Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday weighed in with a claim in the ongoing controversy over the Rawalpindi Ring Road project, saying Prime Minister Imran Khan had himself given permission for extension despite the fact that there was no such provision in the original plan.

His remarks came days after the prime minister ordered an inquiry into realignment of the project, which not only increased its cost by Rs25 billion but is also believed to have benefited some private housing societies.

Mr Sharif said that during the tenure of the PML-N government various mega projects including motorway and orange line were completed, but no scandal was unearthed. However, he alleged, corruption worth billions of rupees had been committed in the BRT project in Peshawar executed by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government.

The opposition leader said that the issue of estranged leader of PTI Jehangir Khan Tareen, who has formed his own group in the party, would come under discussion during the forthcoming meeting of PML-N.

Assails govt’s strategy to deal with pandemic

“Though this is an internal issue of PTI, we will discuss it in our party,” he said while talking to reporters during a visit to Charsadda on Thursday. He had come to Charsadda to offer condolences over the death of veteran nationalist leader Begum Naseem Wali Khan.

Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and other senior leaders of PML-N were present on the occasion.

Shehbaz Sharif dispelled the impression that his release from jail was the outcome of some deal. He said it was not the first time that he had been put in the jail. He said PML-N and other political forces were struggling against the government.

In reply to a question, he said the government had committed contempt of court by not allowing him to travel abroad for treatment.

The opposition leader said he was tortured during imprisonment.

He slammed the government’s vaccination campaign and strategy to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, alleging that the third wave of Covid-19 had wreaked havoc due to the “incompetence” of the government.

He said that whenever concerns about the vaccines or any other issue such as inflation or poverty were raised, the government only responded by yelling ‘chor daaku’ (thieves and gangsters).

Mr Sharif hailed the sacrifices of the Awami National Party and its members against terrorism and said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and its people had contributed immensely to combating and eliminating terrorism and establishing peace.

He praised Begun Naseem Wali as a “brave and courageous” woman and said that she had promoted and enabled the participation of women in politics.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2021

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