PTI will be affected more by ‘controversial’ SC decision: PML-N

Published September 16, 2023
PML-N Punjab chapter president and former interior minister Rana Sanaullah speaks in a press conference in Model Town on Sept 15. — Screengrab from video on PML-N’s X account
PML-N Punjab chapter president and former interior minister Rana Sanaullah speaks in a press conference in Model Town on Sept 15. — Screengrab from video on PML-N’s X account

• Party says Nawaz will seek protective bail before returning to Pakistan
• PTI celebrates verdict that will put ‘criminals back in the dock’

LAHORE: “A controversial decision by a controversial bench,” is how the PML-N has described the Supreme Court’s act of striking down amendments to the accountability law. But the party maintained that the decision will have a bigger impact on the PTI and its chief, Imran Khan, rather than the Sharif family.

“Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial made the institution controversial and this verdict has made it more controversial,” PML-N Punjab chapter president and former interior minister Rana Sanaullah told a press conference in Model Town on Friday.

Flanked by the party’s provincial information secretary Azma Bokhari, Mr Sanaullah said he was not personally in favour of the amendments that would tone down some of NAB’s sweeping powers because he wanted others — an obvious reference to the PTI — to face the music as well.

“Now the law has been restored to its ‘black form’, and it will impact the PTI and Imran Khan more than the PML-N,” he said, adding that Mr Khan should now prepare to face the music.“ He maintained that under the reverted law, the courts would not have the right to grant bail to NAB suspects, adding that the decision would not have too much of an impact on the cases of the PML-N leadership, as they had already gone through them.

But Mr Khan, he claimed, had 13 corruption cases against him and would have to face a 90-day remand in NAB’s custody without the option of bail. He parried a question whether the PML-N would file a review against this decision.

Mr Sanaullah reiterated that his party would not seek an electoral alliance or seat adjustment with anyone ahead of general elections. To a question about doubts regarding the date of polls, he said: “Delimitation will be done by Nov 30, and polls be held within 54 days of that date. All the parties present in the CCI meeting know this.”

Talking about arrangements regarding Nawaz Sharif’s scheduled return from self-imposed exile on Oct 21, Mr Sanaullah said the party supremo would “seek protective bail ahead of his return”, and revealed that a legal team was working on his other cases as well.

The former minister also claimed that so far, the elder Sharif’s travel plans had not changed and the date of his planned homecoming remai­ned the same. However, he said, the party was yet to decide whether the rally in his honour should be held at the Lah­ore airport or Minar-i-Pakistan.

Meanwhile in London, PML-N leaders Mohammad Zubair and Atta Tarar spoke to reporters outside Stanhope House, echoing the sentiment that the “biased” verdict was “not surprising” and that it would not hurt their leadership.

“This was a clear attempt to favour Imran Khan on the [CJP’s] last day,” Mr Tarar said, after a meeting with Nawaz Sharif.

“Our [party’s] cases were acquitt­­ed on the basis of evidence and me­­rit. Courts have even said these are politically-motivated,” Mr Tarar said.

“No, cases will not affect Mian Nawaz Sharif’s return dates. His return is confirmed and has been announced,” he declared.

PTI elated, PPP undeterred

In his reaction, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said the decision was “expected”.

“We have an established and clear stance about NAB: it is a dictator-made institution that should cease to operate,” he said.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari mentioned that he had not read the SC verdict, but said, “It is sufficient to say that it was expected.” He said the PPP had fought NAB cases against its members before, irrespective of whether they were filed under the new law or the old one.

Reacting to the verdict, former PPP leader Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said that NAB was the “stick used by our establishment to whack politicians in line”. He said, “It’s ironical that the SC, which itself has decried NAB’s role in victimisation and political engineering, has strengthened it again.”

Expressing satisfaction that “criminal clans” were back in the dock, PTI spokesperson Raoof Hassan said: “This judgement will pose a huge challenge to the new CJP who takes over on September 17. One hopes that he would stand on the side of justice & hold this bunch of criminals to account for grave travesties they committed through their tenures in power.”

Atika Rehman in London also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2023

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