Prominent PML-N stalwart Javed Hashmi has apologised for serving as a cabinet member under former military dictator Gen Zia ul Haq and had advised his party’s leader, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to apologise to the nation for striking a deal with another dictator, Gen Pervez Musharraf.
Hashmi, who is the only prominent PML-N figure from the Seraiki belt, has been sidelined from the mainstream of the party despite the fact that his four-year detention during Musharraf’s rule kept the party alive when Sharif family was in exile.
The Sharif family accepted a deal to go into exile in Saudi Arabia for 10 years, after the PML-N chief was ousted by the general in a bloodless military coup in October 1999.
Hashmi said in a speech he delivered to the National Assembly on Thursday that it was a mistake to leave behind political workers to “face the tyranny of a dictator.”
It was the first public comment from within the PML-N against the party’s top leadership, though second-tier leaders often complain in private conversations about the way Sharif brothers run the party.
The Seraiki belt is widely seen as the decisive factor in 2013 elections and any resentment by PML-N members from the region can hurt its campaign to seek a victory. Hashmi was sidelined after he came out in support of a separate Seraiki province, something that the PML-N is opposed to.
However, the PML-N’s political opponents – the ruling PPP, the MQM and the PML-Q – now support a Seraiki province and have just formed a political alliance likely to stay intact until the 2013 elections.
Hashmi made the argument again on Thursday, justifying his stance by saying that it would increase the efficiency of government administration.
“Today, the population of Punjab is even more than what we had when Pakistan came into being…we should love the country and not the province,” said Hashmi. “What we have to do is to set a formula for new units and provinces should be formed following the wishes and aspirations of our people…we should decentralise powers to the grass-roots level.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2011.