‘United’ Sharifs divided on anti-Imran movement

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–Rifts emerge as Nawaz assures Fazl of PML-N’s support in Azadi March

–Shehbaz reportedly criticises brother Nawaz for not paying heed to his advice of not clashing with Establishment

–Shehbaz says difference of opinion does not mean defiance of Nawaz’s decisions, fears violence during anti-govt movement

 

LAHORE: The opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Thursday sought to clarify media reports about rifts within the party’s top leadership, especially between party supremo Nawaz Sharif and his younger brother, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, over a host of issues, including participation in the JUI-F’s ‘Azadi March’, as the incarcerated former prime minister assured Maulana Fazlur Rehman of his party’s full support in the anti-government protest movement.

In a letter to the JUI-F chief from Kot Lakhpat Jail, the former premier said that the entire leadership and workers of PML-N are with Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl for the Azadi March “till the end of this government, which came into power through rigging”.

The assurance came amid reports that during the PML-N’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting on Wednesday, Shehbaz had criticised his elder brother for ignoring his advice on key matters.

“I told Nawaz during his last tenure to stop fighting with the Establishment and serve the people,” Shehbaz was quoted as having told the party’s senior leadership during the meeting. He reportedly said that clashing with the Establishment has always harmed the party.

According to reports, Shehbaz said that at the time of General (r) Jahangir Karamat and General (r) Pervez Musharraf, both former army chiefs, he had advised Nawaz against removing them but he had ignored his advice on both occasions.

“My elder brother does not listen to me,” he was reported as having said during the meeting.

Speaking about the upcoming Azadi March, Shehbaz reportedly said that he had advised Nawaz against joining the JUI-F’s protest movement. He also told the meeting that he does not want to lead the party in the march and was nominating former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal to do so.

On Thursday, Shehbaz Sharif, who was scheduled to meet Nawaz at Kot Lakhpat Jail to discuss the CEC’s stance over Azadi March, cancelled the meeting citing backache. Party sources said that the PML-N president was advised bed rest by his doctors.

While the party has refrained from announcing an official stance on the upcoming march, Nawaz’s son-in-law Captain (r) Safdar, however, said on Thursday that he would join the Azadi March.

“Anyone who loves Nawaz will attend the march,” Safdar said, adding that he would follow Fazl into the dharna, no matter what.

On the other hand, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has already agreed to support Azadi March.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had said on Wednesday that his party would completely support JUI-F’s anti-government protest and would welcome the Azadi March.

“We have not been told anything about the march but we will completely back JUI-F,” he had said after a meeting of the party’s core committee.

SHEHBAZ DENIES RIFTS:

As reports of differences between the Sharif brothers made rounds on the electronic and social media, GEO News quoted Shehbaz as saying that he could never think of rebelling against his elder brother Nawaz.

“Nawaz Sharif is the supreme leader of the PML-N and his decisions are binding on all party members,” Shehbaz reportedly said.

He added that difference of opinion does not mean defiance of his elder brother’s decisions and that his suggestion of not participating in the JUI-F-led anti-government movement was made keeping in view best interests of the PML-N. “I will prefer to leave politics instead of opposing Nawaz Sharif,” he added.

“PML-N could suffer more in case the JUI-F’s protest movement turns violent,” he was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, PML-N Spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb also denied “rumours” regarding the CEC meeting, saying they are “baseless lies and a work of rival rumour mills”.

In a statement issued late on Thursday, she rejected reports regarding the meeting of senior party leaders and the formation of a committee over Captain (r) Safar’s statements.

“Neither was any committee formed nor is the context of all events true,” she said, adding that this is an “orchestrated effort to defile the party”.

She also said that Shehbaz has taken serious notice of the way “discussions during the party meeting were twisted and distorted and his conversation was misconstrued”.

She further said that the “fabricated” news about the rifts between Nawaz and Shehbaz is result of wishful thinking of their rivals. “The views and suggestions of party leaders during such meetings are sacred trust,” she added.

On Wednesday, reports had emerged that PML-N was divided over participation in the anti-government march.

Reportedly, fissures within the central leadership of the party had emerged during a meeting of the CEC that was held under the leadership of party president Shehbaz.

Shehbaz, Ahsan Iqbal and Raja Zafarul Haq had reportedly opposed participating in the march, reports had said. While, on the other hand, the leaders that are considered close to supreme leader Nawaz Sharif, such as Javed Latif, Pervez Rasheed and Ameer Muqam had endorsed joining the sit-in.

Owing to these differences, reports added, the party had decided to approach Nawaz for the final decision.