LONDON/ISLAMABAD: Dispelling rumours that attempts are being made to loosen Nawaz Sharif’s grip over his party, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday sought to allay the senior Sharif’s concerns by assuring him that the party stood behind its embattled leader and will not accept a minus-Nawaz formula under any circumstances.
Talking to reporters after holding a meeting with Nawaz at his son’s office in London in which Prime Minister Abbasi, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Principal Secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad also participated, Shehbaz Sharif said that the PML-N will resist any attempt to oust Nawaz from politics.
“Nawaz Sharif’s demand for a fair trial is legitimate,” he said, adding that the party stood united under the former premier’s leadership. He added that Nawaz will continue to remain the president of PML-N and will have the final say in all party matters.
Shehbaz said the top level meeting was held to discuss party affairs and its strategy for the 2018 general elections.
When asked the same question, Prime Minister Abbasi said Nawaz continued to be the party’s leader.
“There is no truth in reports of rifts within the top PML-N leadership,” Abbasi said, adding that the top level huddle had discussed the upcoming elections and related party matters.
“It is Nawaz’s right to get a fair trial,” he said, asking journalists to go see for themselves if the ousted prime minister was being given one or not. He said that Nawaz will appear before the court at the next hearing on Nov 3.
“The party will contest the 2018 elections with full force under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif. It was also decided that work on all development projects will be expedited,” he said.
NAWAZ PROTESTS ‘UNFAIR TRIAL’:
Talking to reporters after Abbasi and Shehbaz’s media talk, Nawaz said there could be no minus-one formula in his party.
“The PML-N is united. I will be returning to Pakistan on Nov 2 to appear in the court hearing even though I have been denied a fair trial,” he said, adding that his disqualification from office on the basis of an Iqama (foreign work permit) was a proof of his innocence.
“What to speak of stability and progress if the elected leader of the country is ousted on the basis of Iqama [foreign work permit] and not Panama [Papers],” Nawaz said, adding that if a government becomes weak, it decreases the strength of the state as well.
“The stock exchange of the country took a nosedive shortly after my ouster, plummeting by 10,000 to 12,000 points,” he said.
‘NAWAZ TO RETURN COME WHAT MAY’:
Meanwhile sources privy to the discussions held between the top PML-N brass claimed that PM Abbasi and Shehbaz had urged Nawaz to reconsider his decision to return to Pakistan, fearing that in case of his arrest in the NAB references, the party could find itself in an awkward position.
“Abbasi held a one-on-one meeting with Nawaz prior to the huddle and conveyed him an ‘important message’ from the military establishment,” sources claimed, but refused to elaborate.
“Abbasi also asked Nawaz not to return to Pakistan because if the latter was arrested, it would leave the prime minister no choice but to step down from his office as he could not continue to serve while his leader was in jail. A similar advice was given by Shehbaz but Nawaz rejected both requests,” the sources claimed.
The sources said that Nawaz had also turned down Abbasi and Shehbaz’s requests to adopt a reconciliatory approach and avoid targeting state institutions in his speeches.
The PML-N seems to be a house divided especially after the leadership vacuum created in the wake of the July 28 Supreme Court verdict that disqualified Nawaz Sharif as the country’s prime minister.
Contrary to reports suggesting that Nawaz summoned the top party leaders in London, reports in the media claimed that the meeting was a result of efforts made by Prime Minister Abbasi and other senior party leaders who were trying to keep the ruling party intact.
Abbasi visited Lahore last week to hold an important meeting with Shehbaz to convince him to fly to London and mend fences with his elder brother after it became clear that Nawaz Sharif was not coming to Pakistan, reports said.
Also, last week, Nawaz thrice delayed his scheduled arrival plan to Pakistan. He was first scheduled to land in Lahore on Sunday. He then rescheduled his return from Jeddah for Tuesday, after performing Umrah along with his mother.
On Wednesday, Nawaz again postponed the plan and decided to stay in Saudi Arabia.
According to media reports, Nawaz’s decision not to fly back to Pakistan and miss the hearings of accountability court references against him in connection with the Panama Papers case had much to with his reluctance to interact with Shehbaz.
Reports suggesting the possible emergence of a ‘Shehbaz League’, coupled with Shehbaz’s marathon meetings with party office-bearers from across the country and his recent interactions with the Lahore corps commander and other senior military officials have annoyed Nawaz and widened cracks within the ruling camp.
It has also been reported that Nawaz was displeased with the fact that his daughter Maryam attempted to bury the hatchet and reconcile with her uncle and cousin, and she even issued public statements praising her uncle, only to receive a cold shoulder from them.
In addition, the former premier is also said to be unhappy after not receiving the welcomes he expected from party leaders and activists every time he flew back to Pakistan from Britain in recent weeks. Apart from a handful of party leaders, only a few activists would show up at the airport to welcome him.
Sharif had reportedly blamed the PML-N’s senior leadership for ‘negligence’ in this regard.
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Idiots, minus 1 has already taken place, corrupt Nawaz Sharif aka The Godfather is sitting in London. He’s out ?
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