Sharif attempting to sow discord in military, judiciary: PM

Imran derides PML-N supremo as ‘jackal who ran away to London with its tail between its legs’


Our Correspondent October 17, 2020
ISLAMABAD:

A day after Nawaz Sharif fired a fresh salvo against the government and the establishment, Prime Minister Imran Khan gave a no-holds-barred rejoinder to his political arch-nemesis, heaping scorn on him for “trying to sow discord in the military, the judiciary, and the government” in an attempt to escape accountability for his massive financial corruption”.

Addressing a gathering of his party's volunteer force – Tiger Force – a visibly angry Khan derided Sharif as “a jackal who ran away to London with its tail between its legs”. Sharif, who has been handed a seven-year jail term on corruption charges, was allowed to fly to London late last year for treatment of his undiagnosed illness that remains a mystery till this day.  At the time he was flown in a chartered air ambulance amid ominous speculations about his health.

The disgraced former prime minister and his family are embroiled in a slew of corruption cases with fresh charges popping up every day. Sharif and his party, however, claim all these charges are trumped up and motivated by political vendetta.

Sharif has been declared a proclaimed offender by the court following his refusal to return to Pakistan to serve out his sentence. His brother Shehbaz Sharif and nephew Hamza Shehbaz are in NAB custody in connection with corruption references, while his political heir apparent, Maryam Nawaz, is out on bail and her London-based brothers have been declared proclaimed offenders.

Political commentators and government ministers say Sharif’s relentless onslaughts against the security establishment show that he is desperate to get some reprieve for his family. Credence was lent to these claims by the recent revelations that PML-N senior leader Muhammad Zubair had secretly met the army chief twice in the hope of getting some concessions for the Sharif family. 

In an animated speech frequently interrupted by sloganeering at a convention of Tiger Force in Islamabad on Saturday, Premier Imran lampooned Sharif as a protégé of army generals who is now trying to re-establish himself as a champion of democracy.

“This is the same man who had first become a minister with the blessings of Gen (retd) Ghulam Jilani; this is the same man who had become the chief minister [Punjab] by polishing the boots of Gen Ziaul Haq; this is the same man who had received millions of rupees from the then ISI chief Gen (retd) [Asad] Durrani through Mehran Bank to [cobble together an alliance of rightwing parties] to contest the elections against the PPP,” Khan said while referring to Sharif’s political career.

“Gen Durrani conceded this in his report submitted in the Supreme Court. But ironically, our courts have always helped him [get away]. This is the man who put [Asif Ali] Zardari in jail twice. It was Zardari who had instituted the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case against him, not Gen [Qamar Javed] Bajwa,” Khan said.

Premier Khan regretted Sharif’s tirade against the country’s security institutions. “There are frequent attacks on our troops; they are sacrificing their lives every day,” he said, adding that 20 servicemen were martyred in two attacks on Thursday. “Why are they laying down their lives? For us. For our country,” he added while regretting that the “jackal” used inappropriate language against the incumbent army and ISI chiefs.

Calling the Gujranwala rally of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) a “circus”, he said: “When you go after the thieves, they will unite. Last night they were all together.” He also played an 11-year-old video clip, in which he had “predicted” the coming together of the opposition to protect their loot and plunder.

The prime minister said the speeches of Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari didn’t deserve his reaction because these “kids” have never worked an hour in their lives and lived “of the ill-gotten wealth of their fathers”. “Though one of them has become grandma now, she is still a kid for me,” he added while alluding to Maryam.

Khan said Sharif was playing a dangerous game by trying to create rifts in the government, the military and the judiciary. Sharif has been repeatedly accused of furthering the Indian narrative – for which he is receiving massive coverage in the Indian media.

“The Indian newspapers are praising Sharif for championing democracy,” the prime minister said before going on to expose the duplicity of Indian media. “Don’t they know this is the Nawaz Sharif who was nurtured by [military dictator Gen] Ziaul Haq! Isn’t he the same Nawaz Sharif who had attacked and tried to buy the judiciary?"

“He is only with the judiciary as long as it rules in his favour. When the judiciary closes the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case, he praises it, but cries foul when he is convicted in the Panama Papers case. Did Gen Bajwa leak the Panama Papers?"

The prime minister also scoffed at the opposition’s allegations of rigging in the 2018 elections as 50% fewer petitions were filed for vote recount as compared to the 2013 elections. However, he claimed that the government "documentary evidence" that the PML-N had spent Rs2.5 billion from state funds to win the NA-120 by-polls, adding that the case had been forwarded to the National Accountability Bureau.

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