Nawaz Sharif, who came under fire for his call for a unilateral withdrawal from Siachen Glacier, said on Thursday that Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani has supported his stance.
Addressing a press conference, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief maintained that if Pakistan withdraws its troops from Siachen, then India would follow suit. He made the comments alongside former senator Tariq Azeem who joined the PML-N on Thursday.
Sharif refrained from commenting on Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s remarks on the issue, in which he shot down the withdrawal proposal. Malik on Wednesday said that every inch of the country is sacred and Pakistan will never withdraw its army from Siachen unilaterally.
“Considering my political career as two-time prime minister, everyone should trust my opinion, as I believe that, if we withdraw the Army from Siachen, India would definitely withdraw, too,” he said. He added that taking an initiative would force both the countries to sit together and resolve the issue.
Responding to a question on the poor law and order situation in Gilgit Baltistan (G-B) and Quetta, he said that the PPP-led coalition government is responsible for the killings of innocent Hazaras and the brutal murders of people in G-B.
He also took the address as an opportunity to criticise Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, saying that rather than increasing the size of his cabinet and asking for progress reports, he should actually visit affected localities. Sharif added that the current situation in Sindh is not satisfactory, and though the Chief Justice of Pakistan has given his observations on Karachi, the government is not willing to implement his suggestions or take solid steps to bring peace to the city.
Defending Tariq Azeem
Sharif welcomed new member Tariq Azeem to the PML-N. While defending Azeem’s past as an associate of Pervez Musharraf, he said that those people who entered politics after the Musharraf coup should be accepted into the party as they were not aware how Musharraf affected the PML-N, nor did they have a direct role in harming the party.
On the other hand, he explained, those who were in PML-N and then later joined PML-Q under the Musharraf banner would never be welcome, as they had brought great harm to the party.
“Those names are written in our hearts and minds, those who damaged the party. I assure you that they will never be taken into the party,” he added.
The PML-N chief added that Azeem has vision and an excellent record of working on human rights issues as well as connections to key individuals, making him a welcome addition.
“The whole party welcomes Azeem into PML-N and we have much to gain from his experience,” he said.
Azeem said that he has joined the “real Muslim league” after being impressed by its politics and principles. He said that he felt guilty while working with PML-Q and could not speak against their policies in the house – but now he has been freed.
Additionally, he appreciated Sharif’s visit to Siachen and told him that people of Sindh, Balochistan, Waziristan and G-B are calling him (Sharif) to visit their areas in order to alleviate their suffering. Azeem further added that the PPP leadership has totally failed to address the basic problems of the people.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 20th, 2012.