Days after suggesting the withdrawal of Pakistani troops from Siachen, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Friday backtracked from its earlier stance, saying its chief Nawaz Sharif did not ask for a unilateral withdrawal, but for Pakistan to take the lead in dialogue with India.
“We have never asked for a unilateral withdrawal of troops from Siachen,” leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said in response to a question at a press conference addressed by Nawaz Sharif. Rather than answering the question, he stepped aside, making way for Chaudhry Nisar to come forward to clarify the remarks.
Nisar said that Nawaz’s statement was misconstrued and wrongly reported by the media. “What we said was that Pakistan should lead the dialogue with India over the Siachen issue,” he added.
It was on April 17, during a visit to Giari that Sharif suggested that Pakistan should take the lead in withdrawing troops from Siachen, paving the way for India to follow suit. The following day, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said Pakistan wanted a swift resolution of the issue.
On April 19, Nawaz Shairf justified his statement claiming that Kayani had supported his stance. “Considering my political career as a two time prime minister, everyone should trust my opinion, as I believe that if we withdraw all troops from Siachen, India would definitely follow suit,” Sharif was quoted as saying.
When asked about Imran Khan’s statement on the demilitarisation of Siachen simultaneously by India and Pakistan, Chaudhry Nisar claimed that “there is no doubt that Khan is a poor fellow who cannot afford a visit to Giari to express solidarity with soldiers trapped under the avalanche. Khan can use private jets, owned by several members of his party, for foreign and domestic visits but cannot go to Giyari.” “He has no manifesto except levelling false allegations and telling lies,” he reiterated.
Nawaz Sharif also stated that “past mistakes of both Pakistan and India and our attitudes towards each other are the biggest stumbling block in a peaceful resolution over Siachen.” When probed on PML-N’s plans for pushing the government to hold early elections, Sharif said that his party was performing its due role, but allies of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) should also think about the interests of the country. “Allies of the government are equally responsible for the current state of affairs in the country,” he added.
Responding to a question about the unification of the Pakistan Muslim League, Sharif said: “I have a list on my mind of those who should not join us,” in what appeared to be a direct reference to Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Wajahat Hussain of PML-Q.
Earlier, the PML-N chief welcomed Lieutenant General (retd) Abdul Qayyum to the party, saying “every general is not like Pervez Musharraf. I had a wish that people like Qayyum should join the PML-N,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2012.