At a poorly organised event at a Karachi hotel that often devolved into cursing and fisticuffs between party members, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif called for independent inquiries not just into the May 2 raid in Abbottabad but a host of other incidents, including the 1999 Kargil conflict.
Nawaz had clearly meant to appear statesmanlike at the press conference. He admitted many of his own mistakes during his two stints as prime minister, quoted Winston Churchill on the need for justice as the foundation of society and called on the nation for a bout of collective self-sacrifice.
But the event was marred by infighting that frequently resulted in brawls breaking out between the three, highly divided, ethnically split factions of the PML-N in Sindh. At least one person was injured in the head in the fights that broke out as party activists struggled to get a glimpse of Sharif at an event where even the organisers seemed perplexed as to what was going on.
When Sharif spoke, however, he tried to confine the conversation to national issues, continuing the party’s streak of speaking out forcefully against military intervention in the country’s politics and calling for an independent inquiry into several incidents “of national concern”.
Nawaz called for a probe into the 1999 Kargil conflict with India, the 2006 killing of former Balochistan chief minister Nawab Akbar Bugti, and the carnage in Karachi on May 12, 2007 that killed over 43 people who tried to rally in favour of the restoration of then-deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
In thinly veiled references, he also spoke out against the recent alliance between the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, both of which are rivals of the PML-N in Punjab and in the National Assembly. However he dismissed questions about the survival of the PML-N’s government in Punjab as “not even worth asking.”
Nawaz claimed that one of his biggest regrets was not taming the powerful military when he was prime minister in the 1990s.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2011.