PML-N divided over PM-CJP huddle

Top leadership kept meeting secret from rank-and-file

Sardar Sikander March 29, 2018
PM Abbasi assures CJP Nisar all possible assistance in revamping judicial system of the country as visualised by the chief justice. PHOTO: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: The meeting between Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar continues to create ripples in public and political circles as it divides the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

Senior party officials are reluctant to officially make a statement on the meeting. However, PML-N suggests that a majority of party members were not taken into confidence regarding the possibility of a meeting between the PM and CJP, according to circles within the ruling party.

Unusual moot: Abbasi promises to achieve CJP’s ‘vision’

The PML-N elite such as Nawaz Sharif, Party President Shehbaz Sharif, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, and Maryam Nawaz maintained ‘top-level secrecy’. According to sources, Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf is said to be the only government functionary outside the top ruling camp who was involved in the matter.

“This was something that remained between a handful of individuals,” said a PML-N senator who requested anonymity. “All other party members were bypassed.”

The development has not gone down well within the ranks of the Nawaz camp who believe that the meeting with the CJP has undermined the former PM’s anti-judiciary rhetoric. “At a time when we are openly targeting judiciary—accusing it of discriminatory accountability…our PM meeting the CJP is tantamount to negating our claims,” said one of the aides of Sharif.

He referred to the press release issued by the Supreme Court after the meeting, which quoted the PM as having “pledged full support for public interest litigation initiatives undertaken by the honourable chief justice.”

The source said that the recent development has hardly left any ground for the PML-N leadership to take on the judiciary in the same fashion as before. “After this episode, what grounds will our leaders have to criticise the superior judiciary?” the source inquired.

On the contrary, the sources in Punjab PMLN, which is privileged to enjoy a close association with Shehbaz defended the PM’s decision to meet CJP.  “Judiciary will have an important role in the coming months. It would hear appeals regarding delimitation of constituencies…there would be discussions on caretaker setup and conduct of timely general elections. A hostile judiciary would be very difficult to deal with. The tension needs to be diffused,” said the source.

Moreover, a senator who also has close terms with Punjab PMLN said, “I don't think this should be presumed as a sign of reconciliation. In my opinion, this will have no effect on the trial against Sharif family…executive was on collision course with the judiciary which needed to be dispelled and tension needed to be diffused.”

What can be done against Nawaz Sharif, he is nobody now: CJP

The gravity of the conundrum tends to increase further as sources said that Shehbaz and Abbasi discussed the possibility of requesting the CJP to meet the PM before the Punjab CM flew to London for a medical check-up. However, there was no significant headway since Nawaz Sharif did not agree to it until Shehbaz spoke to his brother reportedly on phone in an attempt to convince him about the meeting, said the sources.

Earlier, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah on Wednesday offered a cautious response regarding the  PM-CJP meeting. “When the heads of two organs of the state meet, it serves the national interest. A collision between state institutions does not help Pakistan,” he told The Express Tribune.


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