LAHORE: Welcoming Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid’s outspoken dissident leader Marvi Memon to his party, PML-Nawaz’s President Nawaz Sharif has told leaders from her former party that they will be welcome to join if they apologise to the nation for supporting a dictator.
Nawaz was all praise for Marvi, who formally announced joining the party on Sunday, at a joint press conference at his house in Raiwind. “Marvi’s approach towards issues is pragmatic. She will prove to be an asset for the party,” he said, expressing confidence that she will be able to win her seat in the general elections.
Marvi, a former member of the National Assembly, quit the PML-Q after the party joined the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party to form a coalition government in June 2011. Recently, political observers speculated that Marvi, whose father Nisar Memon is still with the PML-Q, will join Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf that has been attracting many political heavyweights.
According to sources, Marvi is likely to be offered the task of developing the party’s approach towards women’s rights and might even be made an MNA over one of two vacant lower house seats. Sources also said that the party’s legislative performance in the house will be judged by Marvi, along with Ahsan Iqbal and Engineer Khurram Dastgir.
But both Nawaz and Marvi were tight-lipped.
Nawaz said he has not yet decided on an assignment for her but besides her desired task, she will look after the party Sindh affairs as well. Marvi said she will serve the party as a worker and does not want any ranks.
The meeting between Marvi and Nawaz was attended by PML-N’s senior leaders Ghous Ali Shah, Khawaja Saad Rafique, Pervaiz Rasheed, PML-N Central General Secretary Zafar Iqbal Jhagra and Anusha Rehman. Nawaz’s daughter Maryam and her husband Captain (retd) Safdar, who had supported Nawaz in negotiations with Marvi, were also present.
‘I’m honoured to join’
“I’m very honoured and privileged to be a part of the PML-N and to accept the leadership of Nawaz Sharif,” Marvi said.
Talking about her support to General Pervez Musharraf, during whose tenure she actively campaigned for a women’s rights bill, Marvi said that her first encounter with the PML-N was when she saw it fight for democracy against Musharraf. “I learnt a lesson about establishment politics in those three years and decided to part ways.”
But while she tendered an apology over her past statements against the PML-N, she said she still stood by them.
In a veiled reference to the PTI, Marvi said that since she resigned, she examined various political parties and their leaders making ‘fake’ promises of change. “I even contemplated going independent. But the PML-N is the right party [for me] which, according to its manifesto, will bring the country out of the clutches of the prevailing problems.”
Comparing the two leaders, she said that Imran is arrogant while Nawaz is a serious, mature and down-to-earth leader and has a deep understanding of issues.
She said that the PML-N follows policies that adhere to democracy and respect an independent judiciary and the rule of law. It wants to bring the armed forces under the ambit of the parliament, have good relations with neighbouring countries and dignified ties with super powers.
Last month, Pakistani officials complained to Karzai on the issue while he attended a trilateral summit hosted by Pakistan and attended by Afghanistan and Iran. Balochistan officials have also raised the issue of cross-border infiltration into the province. Last month, Afghan security forces, chasing militants, also intruded inside Qilla Saifullah and killed two men.
In response to Islamabad’s request, Kabul has formally given its assurance to stop the infiltration of militants from Kandahar to Balochistan’s border district Chaman.
But, on the other hand, Afghan security forces have also been blaming Islamabad for clandestine support to Taliban militants. Pakistani officials have accused Afghan security forces for supporting Quetta Shura – the top Taliban leadership council – for plotting terror incidents in the province.
Visas to American citizens
Pakistan will not extend visas of American citizens without any solid reasons, according to Malik. “No American citizen will be allowed to enter Pakistan without valid documents. They will only be allowed inside Pakistan if they seek proper permission from the interior and foreign ministries.”
Check on private security firms
Malik said that the interior ministry has kept a check on private security firms’ activities since he assumed charge in 2008. “Their no-objection certificates (NoCs) are being verified. Heads of these firms have been asked to renew their NoCs and licences as and when they expire.”
Nawaz versus Shujaat
Responding to Nawaz’s statement, PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain said that the Sharif brothers had themselves invited former dictator Ziaul Haq and took him to the house to address the assembly. “They should first tender their apology over their behaviour and then demand one from others.”
He ruled out an alliance with the N-league but said the door for negotiations should always remain open.
However sources within the PML-N said that PML-Q’s General Secretary Mushahid Hussain Syed is in talks with the PML-N leadership. They said that Nawaz’s statement was an indication that he was ready to accept them.
Nawaz’s negotiations with PML-Q’s disgruntled leaders Humayoun Akthar, Sheikh Rashid and Ejazul Haq are underway but the PML-N has not yet started talking with the Chaudhrys of Gujrat.
Sharif versus Gilani
When asked about the prime minister’s confident statement that he wasn’t going anywhere, Nawaz said that the PML-N has been objecting against the government’s attitude as the prime minister keeps issuing and retracting statements.
“If he does not want to be remembered in good words, he should at least respect the office he continues to keep,” Nawaz said.
He said that the PML-N forced the PPP into passing the 20th amendment as it gives the constitutional guarantee of a caretaker set-up and a transparent election commission.