–PML-N supremo regrets not following JUI-F chief’s suggestion for resignations and protest after 2018 elections
LAHORE: Incarcerated former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday threw his weight behind the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl’s (JUI-F) ‘Azadi March’ against the Imran Khan government, set to begin on October 31, saying that he “fully supports” it.
“Our viewpoint is the same as Maulana’s [Fazlur Rehman’s] viewpoint, ” said Nawaz while speaking to reporters at a Lahore accountability court. He was accompanied by his son-in-law Capt (r) Mohammad Safdar.
A day earlier, Capt Safdar had disclosed that the party supremo’s message to the workers was “they must participate” in Fazl’s protest. “Those who love the country will join the march,” he had quoted Nawaz as saying.
Nawaz on Friday recalled that Rehman had called for resignations and protest after the 2018 general elections, in which the PTI came to power. “We had convinced him not to take that course but I feel [now] that his argument was solid.”
“Not paying heed to Maulana’s call for the march would be a mistake,” he added.
Nawaz said that he has already written a letter to his brother Shehbaz Sharif in this regard, detailing the future course of action of the party, and expressed hope that the PML-N president would brief the media on it.
Earlier on Thursday, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif skipped “an all-important meeting” with the former prime minister in jail, fuelling speculation the two brothers had developed differences over the issue of joining the JUI-F’s march on Oct 31.
Shehbaz did not go to Kot Lakhpat jail to meet his elder brother despite the party’s announcement that the former would present suggestions of its senior leaders to the latter regarding joining the JUI-F protest. The former Punjab chief minister was to announce Nawaz’s decision on the matter after the meeting.
A backache was cited as the reason for Shehbaz’s failure to meet his elder brother.
Sources believe that since Shehbaz is not in favour of joining the march, he “postponed” his meeting with Nawaz as he wanted to present “strong arguments” against the proposal to his brother later.
However, a television channel quoted Shehbaz on Thursday night as saying he could have different views on some issues but his elder brother’s decision was final and the party would follow it.
Later in the day, some leaders — including the son-in-law of Nawaz — declared that the former prime minister had given a “go-ahead” to the workers to participate in it to oust the “selected government”.
Senior PML-N leader Mian Javed Latif said that Nawaz had written a letter to Maulana Fazl informing him about the party’s decision to join the anti-government march.
PML-N’s Lahore chief Pervaiz Malik confirmed in a statement that on the directive of Nawaz, the party would take part in the march. “Time has come to get rid of Imran Khan’s fascist government,” he said.
The party’s spokesperson, Marriyum Aurangzeb, dismissed reports about differences between the two brothers over the march, describing them as a “malicious campaign”.
According to reports, during a meeting of PML-N’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) 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 [military] 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.
“My elder brother does not listen to me,” he was reported as having said during the meeting.
Speaking about the rally, 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.