Shahbaz arrested at Imran’s behest, says Nawaz

LAHORE: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) central executive committee in an ‘emergency meeting’ on Monday decided to launch a protest movement against what it termed political victimisation of opponents by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led coalition government.

While resuming his political activity weeks after his release from jail, ousted prime minister and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif chaired the CEC meeting and directed the party’s parliamentary group (comprising senior members of both houses of parliament) to establish contacts with all opposition parties immediately to have them onboard for launch of a joint struggle.

The PML-N had earlier said Mr Nawaz wouldn’t resume political activities till the Chehlum of his wife who died last month, but the ‘sudden and unexpected’ arrest of party president Shahbaz Sharif compelled him to get into action and deal with the challenges the party has been facing.

While presiding over the CEC meeting at PML-N’s Model Town secretariat, Mr Nawaz alleged that Mr Shahbaz had been arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) at the behest of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

PML-N plans movement against ‘political victimisation’ of opposition members

The committee passed several resolutions condemning the arrest of its leadership days before the Oct 14 by-elections, huge increase in gas and electricity tariff that resulted in inflation, threatening tone used by the PTI leadership against its political opponents, and PTI’s intention to review China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects.

“After taking input from CEC members, Nawaz Sharif directed the party’s parliamentary group to establish contact with opposition parties in coming days to have them onboard for a joint struggle to deal with Imran Khan’s aggressive action plan to target opposition members,” said a CEC member after the meeting.

He said the CEC members were of the opinion that if the PML-N and other opposition parties did not resist the ‘political victimisation’ jointly, this would continue.

The meeting decided that in the first phase of the protest movement, the party would launch agitation against ‘political victimisation’ of the Sharif family and opposition members in and outside the parliament.

In one of its resolutions, the PML-N’s CEC termed the arrest of Mr Shahbaz a ‘political revenge’ and demanded his immediate release. “Before the Oct 14 by-polls the arrest of Shahbaz is part of a planned conspiracy to benefit the PTI. The mala fide intention of the government and NAB can be gauged from the fact that he has been arrested without a reference is filed against him in this (Ashiyana) case,” it said.

Another resolution condemned PM Khan’s threatening tone towards the PTI’s political opponents, bureaucracy and businessmen. “The language used by Imran Khan in a presser in Lahore is not worthy of a prime minister.” The resolution also chided the government for huge increase in gas and electricity tariff that resulted in inflation and increase in prices of commodities.

The meeting adopted another resolution against the PTI government’s intention to review CPEC projects, demanding it must carefully handle this matter as China was Pakistan’s time-tested friend. The PTI ministers’ controversial comments in this regard were against the national interest, it added.

Protests planned for tomorrow

Talking to reporters after the meeting, PML-N’s MNA Rana Sanaullah said the party would stage protest demonstrations outside the National Assembly and Punjab Assembly on Wednesday if their sessions were not called by then.

“If you [the PM] did not pay attention to this protest, then this protest would not remain confined to the parliament,” he warned. He demanded Mr Shahbaz, who was leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, should be brought to the NA session.

“What message Imran Khan has given to the construction companies after the arrest of Shahbaz Sharif. Now a good construction firm will be reluctant to work on government projects,” he said, adding that NAB had always been used for political victimisation.

PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan said NAB should also lay hand on Prime Minister Imran Khan and Defence Minister Pervez Khattak for their alleged role in the Peshawar metro bus scandal if the bureau wanted to prove its impartiality.

PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said the meeting was primarily called to discuss the situation after the arrest of Shahbaz Sharif and formulate the party’s strategy. “Shahbaz Sharif has been arrested as part of PTI’s policy of political victimisation of its opponents,” she said.

Meanwhile, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told the media that action against corrupt elements would continue and the government would not come under pressure from the opposition. “No matter how much you [opposition members] cry, the accountability process will not stop,” he declared.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2018

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