Guests & hosts transgressed limits
The revelation on Wednesday night by a military spokesman that PML-N leader Muhammad Zubair held two meetings with the army chief in two weeks in August and September and discussed matters concerning former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam has exposed the double-track politics of the leader who remained chief executive of the country for three terms and chief minister of Punjab for two terms.
Zubair is the son of a former general and his meetings with Maryam before and after his sessions with Gen Bajwa make the contact more meaningful. This interaction was separate from the one that PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif had with the army chief along with parliamentary leaders of about a dozen parties.
If the army has nothing to do with politics, as stated by London-based Sharif in his full-scale attack on the army while addressing the Sept 20 all-party conference, there was little justification for the party leadership to send Mr Zubair to the army chief to seek any relief for the Sharifs.
Similarly, there was no justification for Gen Bajwja to receive the leader of a political party.
This was not the first time that the PML-N followed a two-track policy in an attempt to achieve an objective.
In the past, it had adopted a similar course to bring the then-president Gen Musharraf under pressure to banish the Sharif family to Saudi Arabia. Opposition parties’ coalition – Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy – was being cobbled simultaneously with banishment accord talks. The opposition alliance was formed and at the same time, the Sharifs were landing in Jeddah. Veteran leader Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, who set up many alliances in his lifetime, felt betrayed by the Sharifs, as Begum Kulsoom had been holding talks with him for the formation of ARD.
Now whatever the party’s internal calculations, the former prime minister has done no service to the party through his fiery address.
The speech has also widened the gulf between the PML-N and the PML-Q and there is no possibility of cooperation between the two sides, although Shehbaz Sharif had said a few months ago that differences between the two parties had been settled and they would join hands in times ahead.
After the speech, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi advised PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif to keep in mind the fate of Muttahida Qaumi Movement ex-chief Altaf Hussain while following in his footsteps.
He said today Nawaz Sharif talks of Kashmiris’ plight, but there was a time when he was the prime minister of Pakistan, and the Indian army was martyring innocent Kashmiris at the Line of Control (LoC) on daily basis.
The Pakistan Army was sacrificing the lives of its jawans at the LoC, but he [Nawaz Sharif], instead of taking up the matter with the Indian government, was ‘exchanging turbans’ [becoming fast friends] with India’s premier Narendra Modi, and sending sarees to his family women as gifts, recalled Pervaiz Elahi.
The Punjab Assembly speaker said the army is a guarantor of security and stability of Pakistan, claiming that DawnLeaks’ team of Nawaz Sharif had taken over his party.
The immediate effect of Mr Sharif’s speech is seen in the shift in the party’s stance on NAB-related laws.
So far, the PML-N has been calling for the disbandment of the NAB, which it alleges is playing into the hands of the rulers. But on Wednesday a National Assembly panel deferred consideration of three important bills, with the opposition members surprising many by declaring that it was ready to pass the government’s National Accountability (Second Amendment) Bill ‘as it is’.
The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice met here under the chairmanship of Riaz Fatyana, as three important bills — National Accountability (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019 (Ordinance No XXVII of 2019), Whistleblower Protection and Vigilance Commission, Ordinance No XXIII of 2019 and International Court of Justice (Review and Re-consideration) Ordinance No VI of 2020 — were on the agenda.
When the amendment bill related to curtailing National Accountability Bureau (NAB) powers in cases against businessmen was about to be taken up, the law secretary informed the standing committee that the ministry did not want a discussion on the bill in the Wednesday meeting though Shah Nawaz Ranjha of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz said he had no objection if the bill was passed and Syed Naveed Qamar of the Pakistan People’s Party said the opposition was ready to pass the bill ‘as it is’.
The former prime minister’s speech will also adversely affect the party interests at a time when the local government elections are around the corner. It is a foregone conclusion that the local elections are won by the sitting governments.
This being so, the PML-N will not get enough representation in local elections, as a result of which it will not be able to play its role in Punjab for many years.
All concerned must also bear in mind that the army chief has told his ‘guests’ that the army would not allow anyone to create chaos in the country. After that, they will have to review their protest plans.