• Says ministers trying to divert attention from incompetence
• NAB blames her for maligning judges, attempting to harass the bureau
ISLAMABAD: Rejecting the information minister’s claim about cracks within her party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) vice president Maryam Nawaz on Tuesday said the government was fabricating such stories to divert attention from its incompetence.
Speaking to reporters after attending the hearing of an appeal against her conviction in the Avenfield reference, Ms Nawaz said her party had seen many highs and lows over the past few years, with senior leaders being imprisoned, facing politically motivated cases and receiving threats. However, she said, the party had endured through it all and remained intact.
On Sunday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had claimed that four top PML-N leaders had met ‘someone’ and offered themselves up as alternatives to Nawaz Sharif in case he was not acceptable to ‘them’.
Asked about the reported attempt by her party leaders to replace the PML-N supremo, she said the minister’s statement was a diversion tactics so that media could not question the government about price hike and its incompetence that led to the recent Murree tragedy. She said that after the death of dozens of tourists, instead of providing balm to the wounds of the aggrieved families and sharing in their grief, “inconsiderate ministers and government machinery” started victim blaming. They held the tourists visiting the hill station during snowfall responsible for the tragedy.
She then criticised Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leaders who made fun of PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif’s long boots that he used to wear while visiting the inundated areas after downpour. “Instead of following his example and borrowing the boots from him, they [PTI leaders] spent winter nights in the heated bedrooms of their official residences, maintained on public expense while tourists were dying in the snow,” she said.
During Tuesday’s hearing, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor Usman Cheema, who sought an adjournment at the previous hearing after testing positive for Covid-19, told the court that he was not well and still felt “down”.
Subsequently, the IHC bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani asked her counsel Irfan Qadir to peruse NAB’s reply in response to the civil miscellaneous application.
In the application, the PML-N leader had placed before the court what she terms ‘factual records’ to substantiate her claim that she had been dragged into the Avenfield reference and subsequently convicted, not on legal grounds, but for other reasons.
She placed transcripts of an audio of ex-accountability court judge Arshad Malik, where he had admitted to convicting Nawaz Sharif under duress, as well as a copy of a petition filed by former judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui where he accused a former spymaster of interfering in judicial proceedings to ensure the conviction of the Sharif family.
In its reply to the application, NAB claimed that ex-judge Siddiqui falsely accused the spymaster and his two subordinates of maneuvering judicial proceedings.
NAB also criticised Maryam Nawaz for using her Twitter account to scandalise judges’ reputation and claimed that she was trying to harass the bureau.
The NAB prosecutor further alleged that she had misused the relief of bail and requested the court to recall her bail order and dismiss her application.
Further proceedings were adjourned till Feb 10.
After the hearing, Ms Nawaz criticised NAB’s delaying tactics, saying that this was the same NAB that had been seeking day-to-day hearings of her appeal, but then repeatedly sought adjournments on one pretext or another.
Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2022