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It is time for reconciliation, not confrontation: Shahbaz Sharif

15 July, 2017

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ISLAMABAD:  Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo on Friday ‘advised’ the party’s top leadership to avoid ‘hawkish’ approach and ‘act sane’ in the current scenario.

“It is time for reconciliation, not confrontation,” a source within the party quoted Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif as having told the specially called meeting of the PML-N’s parliamentary party.

Like in the cabinet’s meeting a day earlier, all the members present at the parliamentary party meeting endorsed prime minister’s decision to not step down and fight his case on both legal as well as political fronts and thumped desks to expressed solidarity as soon as their supreme leader entered the meeting hall. However, Shahbaz Sharif was an exception, who, during his brief address to the participants, publicly urged the close aides of the prime minister to refrain from unnecessarily indulging in confrontation with all the state institutions, especially the Supreme Court bench hearing the Panama Papers case and the military establishment, and adopt a ‘practical approach’ instead.

“Rather than turning the judges hearing the Panama Papers case furious by useless bashing, we should focus our energies on preparing a strong rejoinder to the JIT report and developing a comprehensive strategy to fight our case on the legal grounds in the Supreme Court,” he opined. “Legal matters must always be dealt with legally.”

Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan looked conspicuous by his absence in the parliamentary party meeting amid rumours of widening gap between him and the party top leadership. The relationship between Ch Nisar, who has on the record declared that he would be the first person to sever ties if corruption charges against Sharif family are proved, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has often been ‘uneasy’ during the four-year term of the current regime. However, Nisar has fairly good terms with Shahbaz Sharif who would bring him round every time he tendered resignation over ‘differences’ with the prime minister.

A day earlier in the cabinet meeting, Ch Nisar reportedly told the prime minister to ‘see the writing on the wall and decide in the best interest of the party as well as the country’. However, a spokesman of the Interior Ministry on Friday was quick to dispel the impression of any internal rift, maintaining that Ch Nisar could not attend the parliamentary party meeting due to ‘personal engagements, as even before he also could not attend several parliamentary party meetings’.

“This aspect should not be wrongly interpreted. The minister will inform about his position through media about the current situation in the next few days,” the spokesman added, in a statement released to the media.

While addressing the parliamentary party meeting as chief of the PML-N, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reiterated that the ‘controversial’ report by the JIT in Panama case was mere a pack of accusations by opponents that lacked any substantive evidence. He categorically told his party that he had a clean conscience and would never resign on the demands of those who were rejected by the masses not once but several times.
 
While thanking the nation and his party for standing with him with unity and devotion, he expressed confidence that the court will also give due attention to his apprehensions regarding the JIT report. In an apparent reference to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the prime minister said that an uncalled-for campaign was launched against him soon after his success in the 2013 general election, including the dharnas. "Now this is the third attack ... but Allah Almighty is with us, and so is our nation," he said.

Nawaz said the JIT report targeted his family's 62 years of business matters only through allegations, accusations and source reports. "Mention if you know about even a minuscule corruption case against me during my five tenures of government, or even against Shahbaz Sharif," he said, in an apparent challenge to his political opponents. "None of the contracts and tenders relating to hundreds of projects worth billions during our tenure is blemished with commissions, kickbacks or corruption."

Recounting his 'services' for the independence of judiciary, the prime minister said he took out a long march for the restoration of judiciary risking his own life, whereas those claiming to be 'bigger leaders' went underground. He said several American and British leaders advised him not to endanger his life by leading the long march. "But I believe in democracy, rule of law and independence of judiciary. Long march was a difficult mission, which ended in success by the grace of Allah Almighty and due to our sincerity," he said. The joint opposition too held a meeting on Friday to agree on a consensus stance over JIT's report in the Panama Papers case. While all the major political parties refused to inch away from their demand for immediate resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) and the Awami National Party (ANP) believed that the opposition should wait for the final decision by SC in the case. Though differences persisted over seeking immediate resignation of the prime minister, the whole opposition was united over the point that the democratic process must continue and the current parliament should complete its five-year tenure. The two-hour-long meeting held at the chamber of Opposition Leader in National Assembly Khurshid Shah was attended by Sherry Rehman and Syed Naveed Qamar of PPP, Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Shireen Mazari of PTI, Sirajul Haq of Jamaat-e-Islami, Chaudhry Pervez Elahi and Tariq Bashir Cheema of PML-Q, Farooq Sattar of MQM-Pakistan, Aftab Sherpao of QWP, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed of Awami Muslim League and Ghulam Ahmed Bilour of the ANP.

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