Senior politicians say ‘yes’ to democracy ‘no’ to corruption

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  • ‘Today it’s us, tomorrow it will be you’, Saad Rafique warns political opponents
  •  Sheikh Rasheed says corrupt politicians should be hanged
  • Shah Mehmood Qureshi says ‘politicised’ state institutions can’t deliver up to mark

LAHORE: Senior leaders of the country’s major political parties seemed to have reached a tenuous agreement on some key policy points after a heated and bitter debate at a multi-party conference organised on Saturday by the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA).

Addressing the conference, PML-N leader and Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique said that it is not right for any politician to consider themselves to be above criticism. He warned the opposition parties and said that if they [political opponents] are aiming to dismiss the government, they should remember that in case they succeed in doing so, his party won’t let their government complete its term in future.

The minister expressed these views while addressing an all parties conference at the Lahore High Court Bar

Rafique went on to say that parties should disagree with each other while taking into consideration that they are not crossing redline.

“Why elected prime ministers are ousted in the country,” he added.

Rafique said that he doesn’t agree with the politics of Pakistan Sarzameen Party leader Mustafa Kamal’s politics.

Separately, speaking to media, he said that there used to be anti-Bhutto politics before but now anti-Nawaz politics has become rampant, criticising the alliance of opposing parties demanding resignations from ruling party.

No party can bring down the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the minister asserted.

Speaking to media in Lahore, Rafique said, “PPP, PTI and other groups can’t bring down PML-N”.

The PML-N leader said that while there is nothing wrong with political alliances, holding rallies, and criticising the government, politics of lies and in the name of religion is saddening.

Rafique’s comments come amid increasing call for resignations from provincial PML-N leaders in the wake of Model Town enquiry report being made public.

On Thursday, an unprecedented alliance of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Tahirul Qadri demanded Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s resignation.

The senior PML-N leader said that they were not afraid of the challenges they were confronted with. He added that PML-N believed in the sanctity of votes and rule of law. Rafique said: “If we refrain from telling lies then Pakistan democracy can move forward and flourish.”

Keeping verbal onslaught up, the federal minister termed Chaudhry brothers the “robots of politics”.

While claiming that even amalgamation of all opponents can’t defeat PMLN, Saad accused Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of being locked in the competition of hurling abuses.

Saad termed Asif Zardari a “cunning guy” and said that votes of PPP have decreased while the party was once the largest one.

The federal minister urged rivals to refrain from undemocratic practices.

Answering a question, Saad Rafique said that timely elections depend on the constitutional amendment relating to the delimitation of constituencies but PPP is delaying the amendment. He said that no one can forecast the time of next elections, if they are once delayed.  He said that some political and non-political actors are aligning with Qadri for their nefarious objectives.

‘THOSE WHO ROBBED DEMOCRACY WERE MADE ITS CHAMPIONS’:

Meanwhile, Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rasheed also addressed the all parties conference and said that country’s political situation is getting worse day-by-day and that the democracy can only be saved by hanging corrupt people.

“We all have to protect the constitution for the development of Pakistan,” he said.

Sheikh Rasheed said no ministry is properly working in Islamabad. Those who robbed democracy were made its champions, he added.

Talking about the Panama Papers case against Sharif family, The AML chief stated that Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) had saved the country by disqualifying ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

The rulers have taken loans worth billions of rupees, said Rasheed, adding that “in summers we get gas, while we get electricity in winters, whereas 60 per cent of the youth suffer from unemployment.

“Investors are stealing electricity worth Rs200 billion from the country,” remarked Rasheed.

Those who supported Zulfikar Ali Bhutto are now ministers in ex-president Pervez Musharraf’s party, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), alleged the AML chief.

He revealed that loans worth billions of dollars have been taken in four years putting the country under tremendous loans.

As Sheikh Rasheed was addressing the conference, a scuffle broke out between two groups of lawyers which the AML chief lamented and requested the lawyers to “stop fighting like politicians”, adding that the lawyers’ fight would become the sole highlight of the conference.

The AML chief, in a TV interview, predicted that all important decision of the country’s politics would be taken by January 10, 2018.

Sheikh Rasheed, who is known for his predictions, said that by January 10 next years all important decisions of the country’s politics would be taken. He said that those used to attack democracy had become champions of democracy.

The outspoken politician from Rawalpindi said, “We all must join hands to save and protect the constitution of the country.”

‘COUNTRY GOING THROUGH CRUCIAL TIME’:

PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi, addressing the conference, said that the country’s politics is going through a crucial time owing to political polarization.

Qureshi conceded Khawaja Saad Rafique’s assertion that there is a dire need to soften the extreme attitudes to prevent political tensions.

He said the state institutions were politicised and could not deliver up to mark, he stated this while referring to Faizabad fiasco. “The performance of institutions would be affected if you politicise them,” Qureshi underscored.

Speaking of the Model Town incident, Qureshi deplored the use of force against the protesters and said a commission was formed in aftermath of the incident revealing all the facts.

Furthermore, PPP’s Sardar Latif Khosa made it clear that no strongman would be allowed to override the democratic process. “We politicians can take Pakistan to new heights if we work together,” he said.

Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) Chief Mustafa Kamal was more even-handed. Though he praised Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif for doing a good job, he asked if repairing roads and constructing roads and bridges was the chief minister’s job. “These things should be done by the mayor,” he said.

Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Khurram Nawaz Gandapur said democracy had been strengthened in the Western world by setting up systems to dispense justice. “Those who are prattling on about democracy seem to have forgotten that there is no democracy without justice,” he said.

At the end of the discussion, LHCBA President Zulfiqar Chaudhry read out a joint declaration issued by the conference participants: martial law will be opposed, democracy will continue, timely elections will be ensured, and the US’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will be condemned as a deeply flawed decision.

The meeting’s participants also agreed on the need to eliminate an unspecified “corruption mafia” and to work on repatriating wealth removed from the country through money laundering. The politicians also agreed that the judiciary should not be subjected to ridicule and contempt.

Other points of agreement included the creation of jobs and ensuring that the upcoming elections are held on the basis of fresh delimitation of constituencies.