• PML-N leader says PTI chief should have been ‘behind bars by now’
• Sana says cipher issue to be taken to parliament to initiate Article 6 proceedings against ex-PM
LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Maryam Nawaz Sharif on Saturday expressed her discontent with the Shehbaz Sharif-led government over its failure to arrest former prime minister Imran Khan in spite of a “litany of charges” that “merited his detention” a long time ago.
Addressing a press conference alongside Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, and other ministers in Lahore, Ms Sharif lashed out at the “system” which had not sent the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief to prison despite numerous cases against him.
“I am still sad about the fact that you are roaming freely in Pakistan,” she said after listing a series of charges against Imran Khan. The daughter of the former premier said she was disappointed in her government and the party leadership as they had failed to imprison the PTI chairman in spite of “glaring” accusations, including the alleged manipulation of the controversial cipher.
“It is time to shake the collective wisdom of Pakistan and the government…come to your senses and give him the punishment he deserves,” Ms Nawaz advised her government. She added that Imran Khan would be someone’s blue-eyed but the coalition government does not consider him one.
The press conference by the PML-N leader was shortly followed by a “bailable” warrant issued for the arrest of the PTI chairman in the case registered against him after a rally on Aug 20 in F-9 Park, Islamabad. In the said case, the PTI chief is charged with criminal intimidation and violating Section 144 among other charges.
During the presser which “focused on the cipher”, Ms Sharif said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif told her that no country in the world was ready to talk to Pakistan and their envoys were shying away from writing letters because of Imran Khan who allegedly manipulated the cipher sent by then envoy to the US. “No country in the world is ready to trust Pakistan because a written letter was fabricated (by Imran Khan) into a conspiracy. All are afraid of Pakistan,” she disclosed.
Furthermore, she advised the federal government to raid the Bani Gala residence of Imran Khan in connection with a copy of the cipher that had been missing from the record of the Prime Minister’s House.
Ms Nawaz said in Khan’s leaked conversation his words “I will play with this” should be picked to understand his politics of over two decades. “Earlier, Imran Khan played along with (former ISI chiefs) retired Lt Gen Shuja Pasha and Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam. He is playing with the country and its economy,” she said and also talked about the “coach” of Imran Khan, an indirect reference to one of the top men in the establishment.
To a question on granting an extension to the incumbent army chief, she said the ISPR DG had already made it clear that army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa was not interested in seeking extension to his tenure. “How dare Imran Khan talked about the appointment of the army chief? He (Imran) had already tried to create division in the army ranks on the appointment of the DG ISI and then his chief of staff Shahbaz Gill incited the young army officers,” she alleged.
Article 6 proceedings
The federal government also announced taking the ‘cipher controversy’ to parliament to pave the way for the initiation of action against Imran Khan under Article 6 which pertains to high treason, as per the interior minister.
“This matter (leaked informal conversation on the ‘US cipher plot’ by Imran Khan and other Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leaders) is going to be taken to the parliament. I hope after a debate on this, parliament will decide to lodge a reference against Imran Khan under Article 6,” Rana Sanaullah said during the presser.
Sanaullah announced the government’s decision in response to Ms Nawaz’s strongly worded statements against Imran Khan. “I think Madam Maryam Nawaz sahiba has raised a valid point,” Mr Sanaullah concurred with the PML-N vice president.
Ishaq Dar declared that the government now had evidence against Imran and his cohorts and it would be failing its constitutional and national duty if it did not proceed against the PTI leadership. “The National Security Committee and the federal cabinet meetings have been held in this regard and it is not possible that we should not lay hands on him (Imran) owing to political expediency,” he added.
Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2022