The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is still in a “mysterious” state of indecision over whether it should support or oppose a government move to extend the tenure of army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
And the most “intriguing” part is that the largest opposition group is also unsure about how much more time it needs to frame an official response to one of the crucial political decisions.
Three days after Gen Kayani was given an extension in service, a spokesperson for the party appeared before the media but parried all questions about the party’s official reaction.
“Nawaz Sharif is out of the country…we will let you know about our reaction when he comes back,” the party’s information secretary, Ahsan Iqbal, told a news conference on Saturday. However, he did not say when Sharif planned to return from London.
And when journalists continued to press him for his personal opinion on the move, he said: “Well, if I say something about my own thinking without consulting my party leadership…it will be undemocratic.”
Ahsan, however, rejected a claim by the government that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had consulted Sharif before announcing the extension on Thursday night or had won muted endorsement from the PML-N chief.
“We (the party) were never taken into confidence,” Ahsan said, creating ambiguity about the move which has encountered little resistance from political circles.
Ahsan’s refusal to comment on Gen Kayani’s extension came a day after it was reported that the party is divided over the extent of cooperation with the military.
Ahsan denied a rift in the party and said reports in this regard are fed to the media to malign the ‘principled’ politics of the Sharif brothers.
While evading questions about his party’s reaction to Gen Kayani’s extension, he continued to rake up the issue of fake academic degrees, criticising the government’s handling of it.
He said the PML-N is ready to sacrifice its provincial government for its “principled” position that “parliamentarian cheats” be punished.
His comment came in response to a question about how the PML-N would react if the disqualification of fake degree holders from the party poses a threat to the Punjab government.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2010.