ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is once again faced with pressure from the hawks in Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz to “openly come out” in support of former premier Nawaz Sharif after the latter has rejected declaration of National Security Committee (NSC) on his statement regarding the Mumbai attacks.
PM Abbasi has been asked by circles close to Sharif to convene a parliamentary party meeting in order to pass a unanimous resolution in support of Sharif and to condemn that Sharif was “misquoted by Indian” regarding his statement on Mumbai attacks during a recent interview with an English-language daily, reliable sources privy to the matter shared with The Express Tribune.
A government official, requesting anonymity, said the PM convening a meeting to extend unanimous support to the ex-premier— in backdrop of his newly found tiff with the state institutions—security establishment in particular—would be tantamount to bringing the PM and the security brass face to face.
“The PM’s press conference (in support of Sharif earlier on Monday) hardly leaves any room for convening an internal huddle like that of a parliamentary party. After Sharif has categorically rejected the NSC statement, a party meeting to put weight behind him is something that entails dangerous repercussions—escalating confrontation with state institutions and that too when the federal government’s tenure is going to end in a few days—and with general elections around the corner—this is something not unaffordable.”
Moreover, Sharif on Tuesday termed NSC declaration as ‘regrettable and painful.’ PM Abbasi attended the National Assembly session the same day where he strongly supported Sharif.
The PML-N source said Abbasi is facing strong criticism and pressure from Sharif’s aides after he chaired the NSC meeting which, without naming the former PM, rejected and condemned his statement which allegedly implied to suggest Pakistan’s involvement in Mumbai attacks.
“To balance the equation, the PM then held a presser in favour of Sharif but the hawks close to Sharif are not happy—they want the PM to ‘do more,’” the insider said adding that no final decision on convening the Parliamentary Party meeting was yet taken.
However, the source said the PM is personally not in favour of convening party meeting on the matter as he reportedly believes that such a step would add fuel to fire. “Abbasi thinks that this chapter should be closed after he addressed the presser and went to NA to support Sharif.”
A trusted confidante of Sharif said PM Abbasi is caught “between a rock and a hard place.” On one hand, the PM chaired NSC meeting attended by services chiefs, chairman joint chiefs of staff committee, foreign, defence and finance ministers, which “unanimously termed this statement as incorrect and misleading. The participants observed that it was very unfortunate that the opinion arising out of either misconceptions or grievances was being presented in disregard of concrete facts and realities. The participants unanimously rejected the allegations and condemned the fallacious assertions.”
On the other hand, the PM addressed a press conference in which he categorically put weight behind Sharif saying he was misquoted in the Indian media. The PM defended Sharif’s statement saying his reference to non-state actors did not mean to link Pakistan to Mumbai attacks episode.
Reportedly, Sharif expressed his annoyance when PM Abbasi met him to take the former premier into confidence on Monday regarding the press release that was to be issued from the forum of NSC.
“Sharif could not digest the fact that a meeting (NSC) was held under the chair of one of his close confidantes (PM Abbasi) and that very meeting condemned his statement,” said the source adding that PM Abbasi held the press conference to ‘balance the equation’ in a bid to appease an aggrieved Sharif. In the same presser, Abbasi denied that NSC condemned Sharif’s statement saying the meeting ‘actually condemned Indian media’s propaganda’ and misreporting in the media.
Reports suggest that both Abbasi and PML-N chief Shehbaz Sharif held separate meetings with Sharif in Lahore and Islamabad on Sunday and Monday to convince him to either retract his statement on Mumbai attacks or explain his stance on the matter but he refused to comply. Sharif has publically said that he stands by his statement which he says was “misquoted by Indian media.”