'PM can’t arbitrarily decide who is criminal'

Opposition and analysts took exception, saying Premier Imran duty-bound to deal with the opposition leader


Rizwan Shehzad   January 24, 2022
PM Imran at the 5th session of 'Aap Ka Wazir-e-Azam, Aap Kay Saath' on Jan 23, 2022. Photo: Instagram/ImranKhan

ISLAMABAD:

Prime Minister Imran Khan forcefully took on the Sharif family on Sunday by declaring that he considered the Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif a “criminal” and “the culprit of the nation” and not the opposition leader and that is why he avoids meeting him.

In a lengthy and fiery telephonic question and answer session with the general public live on air during a programme called “Aap Ka Wazir-e-Azam, Aap Kay Saath”, the prime minister blasted the Sharif family over corruption cases and revealed that he refuses to shake hands with Shehbaz on the pretext that it would normalise corruption as the latter was facing corruption cases worth billions of rupees.

However, the opposition parties and independent analysts took exception to the premier’s stance and raised several questions over his approach towards the opposition leader, whom the premier has long been avoiding to meet and even tactfully avoided following the Murree tragedy.

Read more: Will be more dangerous if out of power, PM Imran warns opposition

“No one can arbitrarily decide who is a criminal and who is not,” the president of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) Ahmed Bilal Mehboob said. “We have courts for this purpose.”

Calling it an “unstatesmanlike statement”, the PILDAT president said that as long as someone is elected, has not been disqualified by a court of law, and holds a position such as the leader of the opposition, “PM is duty bound to deal with him, hold consultations and try to reach a consensus where possible”.

Emphasising that one should respect the Constitution and democratic traditions and recognise the importance of engaging with the opposition, Mehboob raised the question that if “PM considers it wrong to engage with opposition leader then how does it become right for his second-in-command Shah Mahmood Qureshi to invite the leader of opposition for talks on South Punjab province?”

While giving another example, Mehboob recalled that even PM Imran had to write a letter to the leader of the opposition for consultation on the appointment of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) members but he only refused to meet him face to face. “This is not befitting a PM to take such positions,” he lamented.

After all, Mehboob said, PM Imran has often expressed willingness to engage with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi despite outrageous policies and actions of the neighbouring country's leader, questioning “why can’t he engage with his political opponents within his own country”.

Also read: Imran will go down in history as conspirator, plotter: Maryam

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) former minister for foreign affairs, defence and commerce Khurram Dastgir said that PM Imran lashed out at his political opponents because he failed on several fronts and has no plan to make things right.

“Desperation and panic is evident in an intellectually-bankrupt prime minister,” Dastgir said, adding that “faced with a comprehensive failure in managing the economy, foreign policy, and democracy—and without a plan to correct it— IK [Imran Khan] is lashing.”

Central Information Secretary of Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians Shazia Marri called the premier’s two-hour-long interaction “shameful”, saying “his tone and words were below the stature of a country’s prime minister.”

“His two-hour-long public interaction was utterly shameful since he kept threatening his opponents and failed to talk about problems faced by the people of Pakistan,” Marri said, adding that the premier sounded extremely uninformed about Pakistan’s situation as he kept insisting that there was no inflation in Pakistan apart from other ignorant views.

Sadly, she said, Pakistan today is the third most expensive country in the world and the most expensive one in the region, adding, “Imran Khan has failed as prime minister and continues to harm country’s economy”.

While criticising Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday, PM Imran said that he “does not consider him the leader of the opposition but a criminal”, saying he never clarifies the alleged corruption of billions of rupees.

The premier also said that he was ready to talk to everyone but he is never going to negotiate with the corrupt or allow them to benefit from "NRO" or deal.

Just a couple of days ago, the PTI government found itself an interesting tact to meet an earlier court directive while also forestalling the chances of having to meet Shehbaz – without eliciting the court's annoyance.

In its order on January 13, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had directed the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to request PM Imran to hold a meeting by January 21 of the National Disaster Management Commission (NDMC), of which the premier is the chairperson and opposition leaders, among others, are members.

However, when the case was taken up on Friday, Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan had apprised IHC’s Justice Athar Minallah that the prime minister was ready to convene the meeting through circulation as keeping the urgency in view, the agenda of the meeting can be circulated with directions to the members to send in their comments at the earliest.

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