Govt trying to divert focus from Kashmir: Shehbaz

Published: August 9, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif on Friday accused the government of trying to divert the nation’s attention from the “failure” of its policy on Kashmir by having his niece and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz and nephew Yousaf Abbas Sharif arrested.

“The government has shattered the nation’s unity [on the issue of Kashmir after its illegal annexation by India] by having Maryam and Yousaf arrested,” the PML-N president said while delivering a fiery speech amid a chaotic session in the lower house of parliament.

“The opposition had decided to stand by the government and speak in one voice for the sake of our Kashmiri brethren,” he added. “But the government has sacrificed all that for its political vendetta.”

The former Punjab chief minister said the Sharif family had faced injustice in the past as well. “We have been though all of this before and if [Prime Minister] Imran Khan Niazi believes he can intimidate us through cruelty, he is mistaken,” he maintained.

“We would rather have our necks cut off than bowing down before him [PM Imran].”

The opposition leader described the arrest of Maryam by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) at Kot Lakhpat prison in front of her father and children as a “ruthless” act.

“Couldn’t the NAB team arrest Maryam at Raiwind [residence] or intercept her car?” he asked.

“My niece was once again arrested in front of her father [Nawaz Sharif],” said the former Punjab chief minister, referring to the arrest of the father-daughter duo on July 13, 2018.

Shehbaz said he had been kept from seeing the deposed premier in prison after being asked to wait outside while a team of the anti-graft watchdog arrested Maryam and Yousaf. He alleged that the government and NAB were working together and taking politically-motivated actions against opposition leaders.

Speaking in the assembly, PML-N leader Khawaja Asif called out the government for its “‘one-sided antics” of accountability.

“If you want to talk about accountability, the government should first take a look at the 18 accounts the PTI [Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf] is operating in the State Bank. Why is PTI not accountable for anything?”

Pandemonium broke out in the house as opposition and treasury lawmakers shouted slogans against each other. The opposition MNAs accused the government of “selling out” Kashmir while hurled allegations of corruption at the other side.

Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri repeatedly asked the MNAs to calm down and remain seated.

Responding to the opposition, Federal Minister Shafqat Mahmood said most of the opposition politicians were criminals. “These people are using politics and democracy to conceal their crimes,” he added.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan refuted the allegations saying that the cases against the opposition leaders were not framed by the PTI government.

He urged the opposition members to utilise the house only for the interests of the public instead of their own.

The minister asked the opposition to explain in the court why its detained leaders had received billions of dollars from abroad. “The government cannot answer NAB,” he added.

Responding to the opposition members’ allegations that the PTI government was trying to distract the nation from the issue of Kashmir, he recalled that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had arrived in Pakistan on the occasion of former premier Nawaz’s granddaughter’s wedding.

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