LAHORE: The alleged internal rift in the PML-N may be to blame for the chaotic situation caused by protests in Islamabad, as Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, long before the Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool protest, had demanded the sacking of the culprits of the Khatm-e-Nabuwat controversy.
Shehbaz, during a workers convention in Lahore on October 4, even suggested that his brother and party chief Nawaz – who he was sharing the stage with – remove the person responsible from the federal cabinet. Without explicitly naming him, Shehbaz effectively outed Law Minister Zahid Hamid at a time when ministers in Islamabad were still referring to the change as a clerical error.
Shehbaz’s strong statement also seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
After Shehbaz’s very-public demand for stern action against the culprits, on October 7, Nawaz formed a three-member committee, headed by PML-N Chairman Senator Raja Zafar Ul Haq, to investigate the entire episode. The same day, Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid came to Lahore to meet Shehbaz and convince him to soften his demands, party sources said.
The move seemingly paid off, as the chief minister’s office churned out a press release appreciating Hamid for promptly reversing the controversial amendment. But even though Shehbaz tried justifying the actions of the federal government in later press interactions, the demand for a scalp was never actually withdrawn
Meanwhile, the committee has made it clear that no clerks were to blame for the error. Senator Haq, in two separate conversations with The Express Tribune, confirmed that the oath was deliberately changed. On Friday, he said the report was with the former prime minister of Pakistan, who would decide on any action to be taken. To a question on why no action was taken against the person or people identified in the report, he said that Nawaz, due to the NAB trial and his wife’s medical treatment, was too busy. But the party stalwart hinted that “some” action might be taken within the next three to four days.
Sources in the party said that if any action is taken on the report, it would be due to public pressure, not Shehbaz’s pressure. They also said that this is not the first time his advice has been ignored, as Shehbaz had also opposed negotiating with the PPP and Asif Ali Zardari. But the party continues attempting to mend ties with the former president.
Shehbaz has also recently been dodging questions regarding the PML-N’s outreach efforts. When asked about PML-N ministers trying to mend fences with Zardari, he said, “I am a minister and I’m not talking with him.”
Sources said that the CM is also opposed to the politics of confrontation being employed by his elder brother and has made his opposition known on several occasions, but the Nawaz camp still appears to be challenging state institutions to fisticuffs in the backdrop of the NAB trial.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, however, contradicted PML-N Chairman Haq, saying, “No report has been sent, so how can any action be taken?”
He said Nawaz only recently sought a findings report from the committee and would receive it in a few days. He said that to his knowledge, no one has been found guilty by the committee.
“…but if anyone is found responsible, we stand with the chief minister’s demand for stern action.” Sanaullah opined that anyone guilty should willingly resign from their position.
He remarked that the entire assembly also shared blame for having passed the amendment without noticing the mistake. He added that the recent legislation rolling back the change should have cleared the issue.
He also said that the protest in the Islamabad was by a newly-formed political party attempting to flex its muscle and develop street power.