PML-N leaders on Friday criticised Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry for suggesting that the party's President Shehbaz Sharif was the cause of Prime Minister Imran Khan not attending the high-level security briefing by the military high command to lawmakers a day earlier.
Speaking to the hosts of Geo News's morning show, Geo Pakistan, the information minister said earlier today that the prime minister was poised to attend the meeting but a message from Shehbaz had been sent to National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser that the opposition would stage a walkout if the premier attended the meeting.
"Then the prime minister thought that there is no need of a walkout and you people can attend [the meeting] and I won't come," he said. He reaffirmed that the message had indeed been sent when questioned whether the prime minister just had the impression that he wouldn't be tolerated by the opposition or whether a message had been sent by the opposition leader.
Responding to the information minister's claims, PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb hit back, questioning how could Shehbaz have refused to attend when the prime minister was not even a part of the meeting. Rubbishing Chaudhry's claim, she said the PML-N president had not sent a message to anyone.
"Fawad Chaudhry is lying. He is a propaganda machine."
She questioned whether Chaudhry had any official document or evidence showing Shehbaz's refusal, challenging him to show it if there was.
"Did Imran [Khan] sahab not attend issues of national importance and security at Shehbaz Sharif's behest?" she questioned. She further asked whether the premier had not attended other significant events on the opposition leader's calling.
Meanwhile, PML-N senior leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi when questioned on the matter during a press conference in Islamabad today, sarcastically responded: "Yes this is indeed correct. We order the prime minister on what work he has to do."
He said Chaudhry wasn't aware that the premier was not a part of the parliamentary committee on national security. "Did he not see his (the prime minister's) chair empty?" asked Abbasi.
He said the information minister had forgotten that the prime minister didn't need to attend the meeting since he had already received the briefing and agreed with it — though "if he came then it would've been a very good thing."
Abbasi hit out at Chaudhry and questioned whether he mentioned who had ordered the attacks on and disruption against the PML-N president in the National Assembly during his budget speech. "Government ministers and MNAs told us that a direct message came from the prime minister to not let him (Shehbaz) speak," alleged the PML-N leader.