ISLAMABAD: Former interior minister and senior leader of the ruling PML-N Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has claimed that he was against the inclusion of armed forces officials in the JIT that investigated the Panama Papers cases against former premier Mian Nawaz Sharif.
During an exclusive talk with The Express Tribune on Tuesday, he said when JIT was being formed, he had asked Sharif to meet with the army chief to discuss the formation of the JIT and ask him to withdraw army officers from the team.
However, he said this meeting never went ahead despite the former premier voicing his agreement with Nisar.
He said this basic mistake allowed a lot of controversies to be generated later. “JITs are formed and cases are heard as a routine matter, but this basic decision actually worsened the situation and institutions are heading now towards a clash,” Nisar stated.
“It is said that a stitch in time saves nine. A stitch at that time would have helped keep the situation from becoming what it is at the moment,” he stated.
Nisar also said that it was his strong opinion that Sharif, as PM, should not appear before the JIT. “I was of the view that he should address the nation and clarify that as a common citizen, he is accountable to any court of Pakistan, but as the PM his appearance before grade-19 and 20 officers is an affront to the authority and dignity of his office,” Khan further stated. He said contrary to his suggestion, Sharif decided to appear before the JIT.
Nisar also said that there is no option available other than holding elections on time. He said Pakistan is already facing a number of issues and if there is a delay in the elections, problems would multiply. “I don’t rule out a minor delay in the process due to legal or administrative issues, but no other option is available other than to hold the elections,” he stated.
Nisar said it has been his point of view since before the disqualification of the former PM that lack of clarity is the main issue for PML-N. He said no party can afford to go into election season with confused minds. “We will have to get past this confusion,” he stated.
He also said he has been of the opinion that a meeting of the central executive committee or general council should be called and everybody should present their points of view. He said a consensus narrative should be developed through these meetings and N League should contest election with this narrative.
“At the moment there is no consensus narrative of the party which is contrary to the common perception that Sharif wants the policy of aggression and some other group wants to avoid a clash.
The narratives of Sharif or Maryam Nawaz was never discussed in any meeting. Chanting a slogan or a sentence has no value unless there is a strategy and a way forward. A strategy is a far-away idea which was not even discussed (in any of meeting),” he said.
He said that if PML-N wants to contest the elections, it should go ahead with a consensus narrative.
Nisar said there is need to look at delimitation through the prism of constitutional and legal requirements rather than through a personal angle.
He said no delimitation has ever been made in Pakistan which had satisfied everybody. He said this is for the first time that ECP fulfilled its legal and constitutional job with regard to delimitation. He said earlier the administration or the government used to do it.
“Whoever has issues with the delimitation may approach the ECP for a review. We must appreciate the positive thing (delimitation) which has been made first time ever as per the constitutional and legal requirements.
US attache’s accident
US Military Attaché Colonel Joseph Hall’s name should have been placed on the ECL, Nisar said while commenting on the case filed after the American officer ran a red light and killed a young motorcyclist. Nisar said he should have placed his name on the ECL the very first day of the incident if he had been the interior minister.
He said this case was first mishandled at the police station. “I can’t accept that an SHO could have decided to act on his own in an incident which had claimed the life of a person without consulting his superiors and released the involved person without any investigation or [medical] test.
“Putting his name on the ECL was an automatic option when it was learnt that he was booked to fly the next day,” he stated.
The interior minister should have directed the committee, set up in the interior ministry to meet and take a decision for placing his name on ECL when this case was reported, he further said.
He also expressed apprehension that Col Hall might have escaped from Pakistan. “If his name has been ‘blacklisted’ then means he cannot be granted a visa by Pakistan. I fear that if his name has been ‘blacklisted’, and please cross check it, then he has already left Pakistan.”
Meanwhile, Nisar noted that many of the reforms he had ordered at the Interior Ministry and its attached departments have either been stalled or reversed since his departure.