Dawn – India hushed up Mumbai attacks case, says Nisar

Islamabad/Lahore/Karachi – Pakistan, 14 May 2018. Former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Sunday blamed India for hushing up the Mumbai attacks case and hanging principal accused Ajmal Kasab in haste to hide facts.

His comments came in the wake of a statement by ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif that has been spun by the Indian media as a tacit admission of Pakistan’s involvement in the 2008 attacks that left over 150 people dead.

Chaudhry Nisar said that due to non-cooperation and stubbornness of New Delhi, investigation into the attacks which was being carried out simultaneously in India and Pakistan could not reach its logical conclusion.

Chaudhry Nisar in his statement said: “In a country where cases concerning capital punishment face years of delays, the only proof in a very important case was sent to the gallows in extreme haste to take him away from the public eye and close the door before facts became public.”

Opposition parties condemn Nawaz Sharif’s statement and demand his trial under treason charges

He said Kasab was hanged in haste so that the Mumbai attacks could be used as a tool for “Pakistan bashing” across the world.

“I say with full responsibility that the delay and slow pace of the Mumbai attacks-related case in Pakistan was not Pakistan’s doing but was a result of non-cooperation and stubbornness by India,” he added.

The former interior minister said: “Despite repeated efforts, India refused to share those facts and evidence with the FIA and the investigative committee formed by Pakistani courts,” he added.

Treason trial

Meanwhile, main opposition parties condemned Sharif’s statement about the Mumbai attacks and sought his trial under treason charges.

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Sherry Rehman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) termed Mr Sharif’s statement “irresponsible, self-serving and damaging” and asked him to explain his position.

“He cannot make such an irresponsible statement inimical to the national security of Pakistan and to its stated foreign policy, even during his own time,” she said at a press conference in Karachi.

Ms Rehman said no democratic state would ever allow non-state actors to go maim, plunder and loot across its border. “What is Nawaz Sharif trying to do apart from serving his own interest?”

She said Pakistan was fighting a huge war “against terrorism against all odds alone and constantly under international criticism and he [Mr Sharif] is adding fuel to that highly critical narrative”.

“There is no concrete evidence linking Pakistan to the Mumbai attacks or for Mumbai to proceed with a trial. Pakistan, too, wants a judicious resolution of the Mumbai case and we are still waiting for the requisite evidence from India,” the PPP senator said.

In a press statement issued in Islamabad, former interior minister and PPP Senator Rehman Malik held India responsible for the Mumbai attacks and said the incident had been engineered to divert world’s attention from human rights violations in India-held Kashmir. He said the state of Pakistan had no role in the attacks.

“Such a statement [by Mr Sharif] implicating Pakistan amounts to backing the UN resolution against Hafiz Saeed who was found ‘not’ involved in the attack,” he added.

Mr Malik asked the PML-N supreme leader to withdraw his statement that created a false impression about Pakistan’s role in the Mumbai attacks.

“It was the RAW [Indian intelligence agency] which facilitated the non-state actors some (of which) were recruited from Pakistan. That is why India did not give access to Pakistani investigators despite numerous requests,” he added.

The former minister said it was a RAW operation supported by some western countries to frame Pakistan.

PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi said Mr Sharif’s ‘anti-Pakistan statement’ was a “well thought-out conspiracy” against the country’s security agencies.

He said the former premier had stooped to such a low to commit treason. “In order to hide his corruption, Nawaz Sharif has gone to the extent to target Pakistan’s security agencies and armed forces. The Sharifs are hatching conspiracies against the army and judiciary with the help of their foreign patrons. The patriotic people of Pakistan will foil their evil designs,” he added.

Awami Muslim League leader Shaikh Rashid said Mr Sharif’s statement was against the country’s security and could lead to economic sanctions. “Defaming the judiciary and army was part of an international agenda and an attempt to create obstacles in the way of accountability,” he told the media in Multan.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Punjab president Abdul Aleem Khan said Mr Sharif had once again proved that he was more interested in having friendship with Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi than protecting the interest of Pakistan.

PTI leader Ejaz Chaudhry de­­manded institution of a treason case against the former prime minister.

Former foreign minister and PTI leader Sardar Assef Ahmed Ali said the authorities concerned should proceed against the PML-N supreme leader under Articles 5 and 6 of the Constitution for his statement that shocked the nation and pleased the enemies of Pakistan.



Dawn – Maryam’s ‘leadership boast’ jolts embattled PML-N

Syed Irfan Raza & Masood Haider

Islamabad/New York, 29 October 2017. The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which is already reeling from rumours of a split in the wake of the ouster of Nawaz Sharif, was thrown another curveball on Saturday after the daughter of the former prime minister hinted that she might be given a leadership role in the party.

Although Maryam Nawaz Sharif, who celebrated her 44th birthday on Saturday, told the New York Times in a recent interview that there were people who thought she was “meant for a certain role”, she denied ever saying that her family had decided that she should take the reins of the party.

“The statement that ‘the family decided that I should be leading the party’ is wrongly ascribed to me. There never has been any such decision. Nawaz Sharif is and Insha’Allah will be leading PML-N. I am not even an aspirant. Am happy to be working as [a party] worker,” she tweeted on Saturday.

Ex-PM’s daughter disputes NYT quote; leaders say too early to say whether she or Hamza will lead the party

Although both she and senior party leaders deny the impression that the PML-N is a “divided house”, insiders admit there are ‘differences of opinion’ within the party, especially over the leadership vacuum created in the wake of the former prime minister’s ouster.

The impression is strengthened by reports of a rivalry between Ms Sharif and her cousin, Hamza Shahbaz, which is said to have been quelled only after the Punjab chief minister mediated between the two at a recent meeting.

In the NYT interview, Ms Sharif only had praise for her uncle and supported his chances of becoming the next prime minister. “He’s the most competent person. He’s my hero. I love him to death,” NYT quoted her as saying about Shahbaz Sharif.

Local PML-N leader and former MNA Shakil Awan, who defeated Sheikh Rashid Ahmed in the 2010 by-elections, endorsed Ms Sharif’s view, saying that there was no split in the party. However, he maintained that if Nawaz Sharif left office, it was his younger brother Shahbaz who deserved to take his place.

The whole party, he said, had complete confidence in Nawaz Sharif’s leadership. “There is no question about who will become party chief while Nawaz Sharif is still around,” he said.

However, Mr Awan admitted that there were concerns in the party, based mainly on the cases instituted against the Sharif family.

“The whole party is disturbed over why only one family is being targeted in the name of accountability, while those who openly committed corruption and became billionaires within in few years were still free to do anything,” he said.

The whole party believed that while Shahbaz Sharif and even former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan could have differences of opinion with Nawaz, but they all firmly backed the elder Sharif as their leader.

Nisar and his erstwhile cabinet colleague Riaz Hussain Pirzada have recently gone public with their own opinions about who should succeed the elder Sharif; the former doubting Maryam’s credentials and the latter suggesting that Shahbaz Sharif take over from his brother.

Cabinet minister and senior party leader Mushahidullah Khan, however, saw a political conspiracy behind such reports. The opposition, especially the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, he said, wanted to gain political mileage by propagating the narrative that there were rifts within the Sharif family.

“Nawaz Sharif is our party president and his decisions are unquestioningly accepted by party leaders and workers,” he said.

When asked about the possibility of Maryam or Hamza playing a leadership role in the party, he said that all such speculation was purely hypothetical while Nawaz Sharif was still there.

But, if such a decision was to be taken, it would also be made by Nawaz Sharif, he concluded.

Another PML-N leader, Rana Afzal, said that both Maryam Nawaz Sharif and Hamza Shahbaz had different kinds of
political experience, but it was not yet time to consider them to lead the party.


Dawn – Sharif caravan’s crawl and canter puzzle PML-N supporters

Amir Wasim

Islamabad, 11 August 2017. The delayed departure of Nawaz Sharif and his rush to reach Jhelum on the second leg of his homeward journey to Lahore via GT Road on Thursday indicated a lack of planning and coordination within the ruling .

In the morning, the rally waited for more than two hours in the hope of attracting more and more people, but when it did not happen, the convoy rushed out of Rawalpindi district bypassing the planned stopovers in Rawat and Gujar Khan, disappointing the local leaders who had set up camps to receive their leader.

Interestingly, the vehicle ousted prime minister Sharif was travelling in sped up all of a sudden while passing through the constituency of former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, making it difficult even for the other vehicles, including those carrying the personnel of protocol and security, to keep pace with it.

They, however, managed to catch up with him only when Mr Sharif made a brief stopover at Sohawa.

The former interior minister was present in the Parliament House when Mr Sharif’s convoy was passing through his constituency.

Mr Sharif had himself announced on Wednesday night during his unplanned address at Committee Chowk in Rawalpindi that they would begin their journey at 11am. However, the local Pindi leadership kept on delaying the departure due to an unimpressive gathering at Kutchery Chowk, the starting point for the rally for the second day.

The unusual and unnecessary slow pace of the rally from Islamabad to Rawalpindi on the opening day has strengthened the claim of critics and opposition parties that the PML-N leadership had not received the response it was expecting from the people.

The opposition alleged that the PML-N leadership had intentionally adopted a “go-slow” strategy in order to provide the organisers time to ensure the presence of the maximum number of people.

Sources claimed that Mr Sharif through his close aides had even conveyed his displeasure to the Pindi leadership over the lack of coordination and poor arrangements.

It was because of the lack of planning that most of the TV channels missed the live broadcast of Mr Sharif’s first-ever direct speech to the public after his ouster at Rawalpindi’s Committee Chowk as the former prime minister was not scheduled to speak at this point, according to the initial plan.

Meanwhile, Chaudhry Nisar through his spokesman in the evening denied reports aired by some TV channels quoting him as saying that he had not accompanied Mr Sharif because of backache.

The clarification issued by the former interior minister, however, once again created a controversy when he indirectly criticised other party leaders for not joining the convoy. He said the backache was not the actual reason for his decision to stay away from the rally.

“The fact is that 99 per cent of senior party leaders are not present in the rally. Why am I only made a controversial person?” he asked, apparently indicating that besides him, there are others in the party who are not happy with Mr Sharif’s decision to go to Lahore via GT Road.

The media reports claim that Chaudhry Nisar wanted Mr Sharif to travel via Motorway and hold the rally only in Lahore. On the other hand, incumbent Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal denied that the party leadership was not satisfied with the people’s response.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Iqbal claimed that the situation was contrary to the reports being aired by some TV channels known for their opposition to the PML-N, and said the former prime minister had in fact “praised” the local leadership of Rawalpindi for their work.

Mr Iqbal also denied that they had intentionally adopted a “go-slow” policy, saying that the convoy was unable to move because the people had started walking in front of Mr Sharif’s vehicle, forcing the whole convoy to move with pedestrian speed. He said that they had attempted several times to remove people from in front of the vehicle, but they failed to do so.

Mr Iqbal said Rawalpindi was not included in the plan as a night stopover, but they had to change the plan as they could not get on GT Road as per schedule due to the large crowd that had gathered in the twin cities to welcome their leader.

When asked about the low attendance on Thursday morning, Mr Iqbal said the Pindi show was over on Wednesday night with the address of Mr Sharif. He said the PML-N rally should not be compared with the long marches and the reception which Benazir Bhutto had received in 1986 upon her return to the country after ending exile.

The minister said Mr Sharif was going back home and on his way he would meet the people to thank them for their support to the party.

Denying differences within the party, Mr Iqbal said that in fact the Supreme Court decision had united the party which had come out as more cohesively.

“The party which had been in a dormant mood for four years has all of a sudden become energised and all the ranks and files have been galvanised,” he added. He also denied that Chaudhry Nisar had not been part of the rally due to differences. “He is very much with the party.”

Mr Iqbal expressed the hope that Mr Sharif would reach Lahore on Saturday after staying in Jhelum and Gujranwala on Thursday and Friday nights, respectively.