ISLAMABAD/ LAHORE ':
A day after an all-important meeting of the parliamentary and military leadership in parliament, the controversy surrounding the attendance of Prime Minister Imran Khan in the meeting is not dying down as the government and the PML-N have blamed each other for the premier’s absence.
Surprising as it may seem, a key cabinet minister had informed The Express Tribune on Thursday night that “the prime minister wanted to attend the meeting but the PML-N gave a message to the National Assembly speaker that they would stage a walk out if the premier attends it”.
Sharing more details, the source revealed that PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari pointed out in his speech that the PM’s absence from such an important meeting was not a good gesture. To this, he said that NA Speaker Asad Qaiser had asked him to “enquire from Shehbaz Sharif (opposition leader in NA) why the PM is absent”.
On Friday, a BBC Urdu story quoted Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry saying almost the same thing in the Geo News’ programme ‘Geo Pakistan’, which then led to a rebuttal from the PML-N.
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Meanwhile, the NA Secretariat has come to the rescue of the information minister as it issued a statement regarding PM Imran’s participation in the meeting and supported the stance that Fawad has already taken.
In a statement, the NA Secretariat spokesperson said that a news item being telecast on media regarding non-participation of the PM in the meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security on July 1 is “factually incorrect”.
“The prime minister is always willing to attend the meeting of the parliamentary committee and the only reason of his not attending it was reservations conveyed to the assembly secretariat by some opposition leaders,” the statement read without naming the opposition leaders referred to.
Since Fawad’s allegation, the PML-N leadership has not only rebutted the statement but accused the information minister of “lying”.
Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, talking to the media in Islamabad, said, “Fawad is lying … Shehbaz had made no such demands.”
Rather, he said, if the PM had attended the national security meeting, it would have sent a message to the people of Pakistan that the entire country’s leadership was united on the issue of national security.
“If the country's leadership can sit for eight hours in a national security briefing by military leadership, why can’t it sit on its own on other national issues?”
He said that it would have been better if the PM had attended the meeting.
PML-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal said that the country would be better off if the PM and the foreign minister “kept their mouths shut”.
Iqbal claimed that the PM had never shown his desire to attend the meeting. “His name was never in the list of invitees.” He said the PM’s participation would have been a welcome sight.
PML-N Secretary Information Marriyum Aurangzeb called Fawad a propaganda machine, saying that he blatantly lied about Shehbaz blocking Imran participation in the Parliamentary Committee on National Security meeting.
Responding to Fawad's statement, Marriyum said the meeting was called by the speaker and Shehbaz did not send any message to anyone.
She asked Fawad to furnish any proof of his claim that shows that Shehbaz was the reason behind Imran's absence in the all-important meeting.
Marriyum said Imran's name was not even in the original list of participants of the meeting published and sent to all participants. “How Shehbaz could have blocked someone who was never scheduled to attend the meeting,” she said.
عمران صاحب میٹنگ کا حصہ ہی نہیں تھے تو شہباز شریف نے کیسے منع کیا ؟— Marriyum Aurangzeb (@Marriyum_A) July 2, 2021
فواد چودھری جھوٹ بول رہے ہیں
فواد چودھری صاحب پرپوگینڈا مشین ہیں
شہباز شریف کیسے منع کرتے میٹنگ سپیکر نے بلائی تھی شہباز شریف نے کسی کوئی پیغام نہیں بھیجا pic.twitter.com/a8DJAzg2iW
She questioned, "Did Imran not attend the meeting on Covid-19 because of Shehbaz? Did Imran ditch the meeting on Kashmir because of Shehbaz? Did he not participate in any such meeting of national security and interest because of Shehbaz? Did Shehbaz prohibit him from attending the meeting on consultation for choosing the chairperson of the National Commission on Status of Women and National Commission on Human Rights? Did Shehbaz block Imran out of the meeting to decide members for the Election Commission?"
Meanwhile, the PPP has questioned the PM’s absence and sought explanation for not attending the parliamentary committee meeting, saying it sent a negative message.
In a statement, PPP leader Nayyar Bukhari said that the premier’s seriousness could be gauged from his absence from a meeting discussing the Afghan issue.
“Has the PM given a message that he has no concern with the internal and external policies by not attending the meeting,” Bukhari questioned, adding that several people were invited to the huddle but it seems that the PM was considering himself an irrelevant person to such a meeting.
He regretted that the PM preferred to attend other meetings instead of the one called on the national security issue.
Meanwhile, the JUI-F also released a statement, saying that the PM’s absence from an important meeting was a big question mark. The JUI-F spokesperson also demanded that the nation must be informed why the PM did not attend the meeting.
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