LAHORE: With the PML-N seemingly undecided what its narrative would be in the upcoming elections, a close aide of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif has claimed the party was not “demanding accountability of former army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and former ISI head Gen Faiz Hamid.”
His statement coincided with reports from London that Mr Nawaz was having second thoughts to his stated position on his demand for accountability of ex-generals and judges.
Addressing a press conference at the party’s office in Model Town on Tuesday, Javed Latif said, “We [PML-N] do not demand accountability of Gen Bajwa and Gen Hamid but only those characters and facilitators involved in May 9 events and mutiny against the head of the institution.” He was referring to attacks on military installations in the wake of PTI chief Imran Khan’s arrest.
Mr Latif’s remarks have raised more questions over the party’s narrative as he is considered close to the elder Sharif and had been quite vocal in his demand to make former generals and judges an example for “conspiring against the ex-PM’s Sharif government” in 2017.
Javed Latif says party seeking action against May 9 perpetrators; leaders see statement as ‘signal of new plan’
“Although 90 per cent in the PML-N think that Gen Bajwa and Faiz Hamid were responsible [for Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification], we are not demanding any action whatsoever against them.”
Referring to those who attacked military installations on May 9 as “terrorists”, Mr Latif said they should not be allowed to take part in politics.
The PML-N leader added that Mr Sharif has advised against any grand reception upon his return on Oct 21 “because of the problems faced by the nation”.
Mr Sharif will give a plan to make Pakistan economically strong in his address at Minar-i-Pakistan, he added.
Mr Latif’s “softer stance” on the issue is being interpreted as a ‘clear signal’ of the party leadership’s thinking about a new strategy after the ex-PM’s onslaught on former generals and judges.
PML-N senior leader Khurram Dastgir also indirectly confirmed the party was looking to eschew the “accountability narrative”.
“We had tried [former] general Musharraf under Article 6, but what happened afterwards is before everyone,” Mr Dastagir told a private TV channel on Tuesday. “I believe we should not repeat this episode.”
Similarly, PML-N Punjab President Rana Sanaullah, who of late called the ex-generals “national criminals” and demanded action against them, also appeared cautious in targeting them further.
Commenting on the situation, a senior PML-N leader from Punjab told Dawn Mr Latif’s remarks were a “clear hint” that the party’s supreme leader has accepted the request of his younger brother and others to “not declare war on the former generals”.
On Sept 18, the elder Sharif went on a tirade against the former general and chief justices — Asif Khosa and Saqib Nisar — while addressing the party’s ticket holders.
His demand for strict accountability left many in the party in a precarious position as the leaders became wary of a possible backlash if the elder Sharif continued with such statements.
This prompted his younger brother, Shehbaz Sharif, to skedaddle back to London within 48 hours of his return.
He tried to convince his elder brother to “tone down” his stance, saying that this narrative might draw the ire of the powers that be, who have otherwise been quite friendly to the party during the previous government’s tenure.
Reports suggested that some members of his family were trying to prevail upon Mr Nawaz to revisit his strong position on the accountability of former generals and judges.
Asked about such reports, Mr Latif said Shehbaz Sharif could “only give suggestions” to his brother, but once the latter took a decision, “everyone in the party had to follow it”.
Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2023