‘Exceeding jurisdiction’: PML-N voices fury over interior minister’s remarks on Nawaz’s arrest upon return
The PML-N on Tuesday expressed anger over interim Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti’s remarks regarding PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif being arrested upon return, prompting the caretaker government to release a clarification.
The discourse comes as the elder Sharif prepares to return to Pakistan on October 21. Nawaz departed the country in November 2019 for medical treatment following his conviction in a corruption case.
He has not returned since and faces multiple cases in Pakistan. He was deemed an absconder the following February. Later in 2020, courts declared him as a proclaimed offender. On August 10, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif was asked about the possibility of the caretaker government “creating any issues” for Nawaz upon his return, to which he had replied that the elder Sharif would “face the law”. “Nawaz Sharif will, God willing, come to Pakistan and face the law, there are no two opinions on it,” the PML-N president had said in London later in August.
In an interview on ARY News programme ‘Khabar Meher Bokhari Kay Saath’ last night, Bugti was asked whether the government would arrest Nawaz if he failed to procure bail from courts.
In response, the interior minister said Nawaz would be arrested if he failed to get bail.
“As you know, the airport is a sensitive area, a mob would not be allowed there … so if he does not get bail from the courts then we would have to arrest him,” he replied.
Bugti’s statement has since received severe backlash from the PML-N.
In a statement issued on social media platform X today, PML-N Punjab president Rana Sanaullah termed Bugti’s comments as “exceeding his jurisdiction”.
“Before making such statements, look at what happened to the [former] interior minister Sheikh Rasheed,” he said.
“Where Nawaz Sharif has to go from the airport on October 21 will not be decided by the interior ministry, it will be decided by the people,” the former interior minister said.
Nawaz Sharif, as always, will fulfil the requirements of the law in courts, he added.
Former information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb also stated that where Nawaz Sharif chose to go from the airport was neither the problem of the interior minister nor his decision.
“This is Nawaz Sharif’s and the people’s decision,” she reiterated.
Aurangzeb further said the interior minister should rid himself of the misunderstanding that he would remain in the interim position “for life”.
“From 2017 till now, these false propaganda and conspiracies have done a lot of injustice to people, not anymore!” she vowed.
In response to the criticism, Bugti said his comments were taken out of context and given a “political colour”.
“I was asked that if any criminal comes to the country, what would your preparation be for their arrest? No preparations are needed to arrest someone, it is the function of the state,” he clarified.
“The caretaker government does not have a political agenda,” the interior minister added.
He added that the former premier would be treated as per the law on his return to the country and the caretaker government would work according to its mandate.
Meanwhile, caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar downplayed the matter while talking to the media in London.
He said there were many legal aspects which needed to be seen in the issue, such as whether Nawaz would come with the permission of the court and the legal status of that permission, adding that the executive would have to consider the implications and would also consult the law ministry in this regard.
“Whatever we do will be [done while remaining] within Pakistan’s law,” Kakar said, adding that the government did not want to give the impression that it was targeting the leadership of any political party.
“Those who can get the opportunity while remaining within the law should continue their political participation and those who the law is stopping from political participation, the remedy for them is the courts.”
Previously, PM Kakar had said that the decision to handcuff Nawaz upon his return to the country lay within the purview of law enforcement agencies (LEAs), who would make the decision according to the applicable legal provisions.
He said this was the discretion that the leadership of agencies exercised, adding that he hoped “they do it to the best of their ability”.
When asked about growing apprehensions about a likely scenario of Nawaz being arrested upon his return, the prime minister had said he was not taking the matter as a “challenge” for himself since he could not decide the issue of the PML-N supremo being behind bars or being free to move according to own wishes.
“I reiterate that the leadership of legal and law enforcement agencies is present. Whatever they decide, whether they send him (Nawaz) behind bars or allow freedom of movement, it will be the decision of the leadership of the judicial process and law enforcement.”
PM Kakar had said the government would intervene where it felt the two entities two were defying the law.