PML-N, PTI engage in war of words over Sharif’s conviction

Former threatens protest in, outside parliament; latter says not influencing accountability process


Our Correspondent December 26, 2018
Ahsan Iqbal. PHOTO: EXPRESS.

ISLAMABAD: A day after its supreme leader, Nawaz Sharif, was sentenced to seven-year imprisonment in a graft case, the leading opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), on Tuesday threatened to stage ‘strong protests’ in and outside the parliament against ‘selective accountability’.

“A ‘selected prime minister’ is resorting to ‘selective accountability’ in the country,” said former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal in a reference to Prime Minister Imran Khan while addressing a news conference in Islamabad. Iqbal was flanked by many PML-N leaders including Rana Sanaullah, Musadik Malik, Muhammad Zubair and Mushahidullah Khan.

He said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) could not produce any evidence of Sharif’s corruption and the verdict in the Al-Azizia reference was based on nothing but assumptions.

NAB had filed three references in an accountability court against the former premier and his family members in the wake of the apex court July 28, 2017 verdict in Panama Papers case. Nawaz Sharif was found guilty in two cases, Avenfield and Al-Azizia, but was acquitted in Flagship reference.

“The company over which a sentence was announced [in Al-Azizia case] was established in 2001 when the PML-N supremo was living in exile [in Saudi Arabia],” he added. “He [Sharif] was punished for the money sent by his son. Is that a crime?” he questioned.

He questioned ‘mega scandals’ that have surfaced during the first 125 days of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, including billions of rupees allegedly made overnight through hike in price of the US dollar and purchase of expensive furnace oil by creating ‘artificial’ gas shortage in the country.

“Who is responsible for this?” he asked. Iqbal went on to say that a conspiracy is being hatched to forcefully impose another ‘conventional league’ and ‘Q league’ in the shape of the ruling PTI.

Terming the ongoing accountability process discriminatory, he said the anti-graft watchdog, NAB, only arrests the PML-N leaders at the inquiry stage but the PTI leaders, against whom cases were registered 10 years back, are given dates of their own choice.

Former Sindh governor Muhammad Zubair said Jahangir Tareen and the PM Imran Khan’s sister Aleema Khanum should be asked as to how they were able to send that much money abroad. “If matter relating to Aleema is resolved by paying a fine, then it means she committed some misdeed,” he added.

Rana Sanaullah, the former Punjab law minister, said criticising the accountability court’s verdict was the right of PML-N leaders. Firing a broadside at Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid, he said, “There’s an ugly man who lives in the beautiful city of Rawalpindi and is acting like NAB’s spokesperson.”

The PML-N stalwart said there was nothing unusual for the party as its leaders also faced similar selective accountability in the past as well. Mushahidullah Khan said Nawaz Sharif was being punished for making the country progress.

“His [Sharif] only fault is to eliminate the country’s darkness, shoring up its economy and eradicating terrorism from its soil … who else has the guts to return home knowing he will be thrown in jail.”

Musadik Malik said the PM Khan’s comment on Hitler indicated that he himself was a ‘Hitler’, who suppressed the voice of dissent under his rule. “I hope he [PM Imran] doesn’t end up like the German dictator,” he added.

Nawaz-Zardari gang has signed ‘charter of corruption’: Fawad

PTI’s response

In the wake of strong criticism by PML-N leaders over the accountability court’s verdict against former premier Nawaz Sharif, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry later fired a broadside at the opposition parties calling them “Thugs of Pakistan” once again.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Chaudhry said, “the Nawaz Sharif and Zardari gang have signed the ‘charter of corruption’ and they consider their plundering as real democracy.

He said “Thugs of Pakistan” had failed to hold a successful show once again, adding that, “their faces revealed that they were lying … they were only worried about themselves.”

The information minister said PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal must have forgotten 1980s when their party was imposed on Pakistan. Sharif family and Ahsan Iqbal were not even elected as councilors before General Ziaul Haq’s rule. “The PML-N leaders are aggrieved over yesterday’s verdict against their quaid, therefore let’s ignore their personal attacks,” he said in a sarcastic remark.

Chaudhry said the public had given the PTI the mandate to carry out accountability and bring those who plundered the nation’s wealth to book. “However, after coming into power we detached ourselves from these matters. We are allowing institutions to operate independently,” he said.

The PTI leader said NAB is only arresting those who are not cooperating in investigation. “All cases were lodged in the PML-N and the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) tenures, therefore accusing us of political victimisation is not fair,” he added.

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