Saad Rafique says he suggested GT Road route for Nawaz rally


ISLAMABAD: Railways Minister Saad Rafique on Thursday revealed that it was his suggestion to take the Grand Trunk (GT) Road route instead of the motorway from Islamabad to Lahore— at former premier Nawaz Sharif’s ‘homecoming’ rally after the July 28 Panamagate verdict.

Saad Rafique, while talking to the media at the Parliament Lodges, said that a lot of party leaders, including Shehbaz Sharif, had advised the former PM to take the motorway due to security concerns. However, Nawaz opted for the GT Road at the recommendation of a number of journalists, he said.

He was hopeful that the differences between Nawaz and Nisar would be resolved soon.

On Wednesday, in an apparent reference to isolated party leader Chaudhry Nisar, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif quipped “where was the politician [Nisar] who had recommended him to return Lahore via motorway, instead of leading a rally via GT Road”; however, Nisar clarified, saying it was the party leadership’s decision.

Nawaz was presiding over an informal meeting of the PML-N leaders in Islamabad after his appearance before the accountability court in references pertaining to corruption unearthed in the Panama Papers case.

During the meeting, the ousted premier asked the participants where was the lawmaker who had recommended him to opt for the motorway instead of Grand Trunk (GT) Road long march. To which, the party leader replied that he was angry with the party leadership so he has isolated himself.

In a statement issued by the spokesperson of the PML-N leader later in the day, it was stated that Nawaz was originally destined to take the motorway to reach Lahore, instead of GT Road, adding that the decision was made in a top-level PML-N meeting which was attended by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and other leaders.

The spokesperson said that except one or two leaders, all the PML-N members during the party’s Murree session had agreed that Nawaz Sharif should take the motorway. “The change of decision to take motorway wasn’t made on the advice of any politician,” it added.

The statement claimed that Nawaz Sharif met media persons, including Mujibur Rehman Shami, at Punjab House after his ouster in which he was advised to take GT Road instead of the motorway.

It went on to state that Nawaz Sharif then directed Chaudhry Nisar to convey his message to Punjab CM Shehbaz Sharif about making arrangements for the rally.

Nisar has been in the limelight for criticising Maryam Nawaz as the potential successor of Nawaz Sharif in the party politics and his open confrontations with ex-info minister Pervez Rasheed.