The prime minister has rubbished reports that Pakistan would not be invited to Chicago summit, but stressed that negotiations regarding the reopening of Nato supply routes are still under way – and that it was premature to say anything in this regard till the negotiations are over.
Addressing a detailed press conference after laying the foundation stone of a new consular hall at the Pakistan High Commission in London on Friday, the premier added that “PCNS recommendations were passed unanimously – the government was told to negotiate with the United States on this basis. That is what we are doing. There is no outcome yet.”
When the premier was first asked the question, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, who flanked the prime minister, immediately whispered in his ear: “they have retracted it.” The premier’s official statement was vaguer, and not as direct.
He said that the foreign minister had taken him into confidence that “there is no such statement.”
“Our negotiations are on. When they end, then we can say something [on such things]. We are in the middle of discussions,” he said.
Asked if Prime Minister Cameron had pressed the capture of Hafiz Saeed and the presence of Ayman al Zawahiri and/or Mullah Omar in Pakistan, the premier recalled that his counterpart had already said that any enemy of Pakistan was an enemy of the UK. He also said that the courts were “totally independent”, and if there is any concrete evidence against Hafiz Saeed, it should be presented before the courts. It is not up to the government to take a decision on this matter, he said.
Regarding the increasing US insistence that Ayman al Zawahiri and/or Mullah Omar are present in Pakistan, he said that relations between the CIA and ISI have always been “excellent” and still are – stressing that the two had hit many al Qaeda high value targets together because of this cooperation.
He said the US and Pakistan are still in “partnership mode” and are looking out for each others’ interests.
He urged that, if there is any “credible” and “actionable” intelligence, the US should share it – so that the ISI and CIA can “jointly achieve the target”.
There was plenty of local politics, too.
Hitting out at the criticism by the opposition, the prime minister said that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had tried its utmost to discredit him and to have him disqualified. However, he said, all these attempts had been futile. He said he didn’t believe in the interpretation of the “Sharif Courts”.
The prime minister said that the PML-N had gone to the Election Commission of Pakistan to seek his disqualification – but, he said, there had been no response. He added that the PML-N also tried to “pressurise” the speaker of the National Assembly, but she too had not said anything on the matter yet.
In fact, claimed the premier, they even wrote a letter to British authorities asking that he not be welcomed as a prime minister – yet he was given full protocol in the highest offices of the UK.
Expressing his disappointment with the conduct of the main opposition party, the prime minister said that they were only harming the image of the country.
He said that the “notion” of a clash of institutions is only being created by Nawaz Sharif, adding that if all quarters work within their ambit there can be, and will be, no clash.
Questioned on the PML-N’s move to introduce a resolution seeking the formation of a South Punjab province as well as the reinstatement of a Bahawalpur province, the premier said he did not think the party’s intentions were “sincere.”
He pointed out that the PML-N had long opposed the division of Punjab – evidenced by the refusal of the Punjab Assembly speaker’s refusal to take up resolutions to this effect by PML-Q legislators. He said the Punjab government had been pushed by the federal government’s “consensus” initiative, which he stressed was constitutional, as well as by public opinion and the will of the people.
He said the PML-N’s move was an “afterthought.”
To a question, the prime minister said that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had purposely rejected recommendations from a recent power conference participated in by all provinces – claiming that Shahbaz wanted to have reasons to protest against the federal government, such as the ones currently underway against power outages.
He said the government had taken a number of steps to assuage the power shortfall situation, which would begin to bear fruit with time – adding that there was no “switch” that could be turned on to fix the situation overnight.
The prime minister goaded the PML-N, telling them that if they wanted him gone so badly, they had two options: Either bring a no-confidence motion against him in the National Assembly or resign from the assemblies and announce a mass protest.
The second option, quipped the premier, would even appease Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) – and the two parties could then join forces. He said that “if” the PTI and PML-N got together, there was a chance that there could be “some” impact – but added that he didn’t think such an alliance would be possible.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2012.