ISLAMABAD: While demanding formation of a parliamentary commission to probe alleged rigging in the July 25 polls, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif has rejected ‘rumours’ that his party is in talks with the security establishment to seek a National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) type deal.
“The world cannot exist without dialogue, but neither anyone is seeking nor offered an NRO. We are not in talks in this connection,” Shehbaz said on Thursday after meeting the former premier and the PML-N ‘quaid’ Nawaz Sharif, who is in Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail due to his July 6 conviction by a trial court.
Shehbaz was responding to a journalist who had asked if he did not show up at the joint oppositions Wednesday protest against alleged rigging outside of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in view of his party’s possible talks with the security establishment.
Raising many eyebrows, the PML-N chief as well as the Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and the Awami National Party chief Asfandyar Wali were conspicuous by their absence from a protest called by the opposition parties to register their protest outside the ECP headquarters.
“A lot of rumours are afloat about my absence in the opposition’s protests yesterday. Whatever anybody thinks the truth is that I could not land in Islamabad due to bad weather.
“This is not the last protest. The opposition parties including the PML-N would continue their struggle in seeking justice against massive rigging in general elections,” he aaded.
Shehbaz said the PML-N’s first and foremost demand, once the new National Assembly is sworn in, would be impartial probe into the alleged rigging in July 25 elections. “Our first demand in the National Assembly would be the investigation into the rigging of elections,” he said.
He said a lot of the PML-N workers were jailed prior to the elections and court decisions came against the party candidates contesting the general election. He said the PML-N had the right to raise voice against the alleged rigging in the election. “We will protest inside and outside the parliament.”
Shehbaz Sharif said the stoppage of Result Transmission System (RTS) should be investigated.
He asked why the RTS was stopped, polling agents of the parties were allegedly kept out of polling stations and pace of voting was slowed down. “The PML-N is still the largest party in Punjab.”
He said it was right of Nawaz Sharif to defend himself in cases filed against him. “The health of Nawaz Sharif was getting better and doctors were checking him regularly, he added.
Shehabz’s meeting with Sharif
According to sources, the former PM Sharif asked the party stalwarts to step up the protest campaign and actively join forces with opposition parties in their campaign against allegedly ‘rigged’ elections.
On Thursday, senior leaders of the PML-N including Shehbaz, Rana Sanaullah, Ameer Muqam, Tariq Fazal Chaudhry and a host of other leaders from different political parties met Sharif at Adiala.
Informal discussions with some of the PML-N leader who met their incarcerated leader suggested that Shehbaz’s decision not to attend the opposition’s protest did not go down well with the elder Sharif.
“Mian sahib has questioned why he (Shehbaz) did not show up at a crucial huddle when the event was meant to be led by PML-N,” asked a former lawmaker, requesting anonymity.
The source said Sharif wants the PML-N’s present leadership to ‘shun laidback attitude’ and actively join the opposition’s protests. “A small political group like Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal is leading the protests. This is a matter of shame for big political forces like the PML-N and the PPP,” Sharif reportedly observed.
Sharif is of the view that opposition parties should not allow the expected Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led coalition government to settle and give it a tough time right from the day one.
“If this government gets settled and starts taking decisions comfortably, then the opposition parties would be at a great unease— and find it hard to counter the PTI’s vote bank in future—this is a cause of great concern for Mian sahib,” the source said.
When contacted, Rana Sanaullah denied that Sharif voiced any concern during his meetings with party stalwarts regarding the PML-N policies vis-à-vis protests. He said opposition forces are united and the former PM is hopeful that their joint efforts against ‘theft of the public mandate’ would succeed.
“Mian sahib is in high spirits and fighting fit. The speculations about differences among Sharif brothers are concocted by some sections of media to feed their 24-hour news cycle. There is no truth in them.”
However a former federal minister said it made no sense why Shehbaz was in Lahore on the day when he had given the call to hold protest in Islamabad.
“He should have been in the federal capital overnight to mobilise political support to gather people in maximum numbers in the joint opposition’s protest,” he said, requesting anonymity.
The source said Shehbaz gave a call for the protest from the forum of joint opposition in the backdrop of pressure exerted by the opposition leaders on the PML-N leadership to actively take part in the opposition’s anti-poll rigging campaign.
“Out of compulsion, the major opposition parties like PML-N and PPP have to participate in the protests since they are part of Grand Opposition Alliance. Practically, these parties have no plans to go for street agitation and prefer to register their protests inside the parliament and provincial assemblies.”