Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, facing the heat after his controversial remarks on the Mumbai terror attack, will be asked to consult the party leadership before talking on sensitive issues, PML-N chief Shahbaz Sharif today assured conerned party lawmakers. In an explosive interview last week, the three-time prime minister had questioned Pakistan’s policy to allow the “non-state actors” to cross the border and “kill” people in Mumbai as he publicly acknowledged that militant groups are active in the country. His remarks triggered a major political controversy, ahead of general election in Pakistan. Fearing that Sharif’s reamarks could damage the party and marr their electoral fortunes, many lawmakers of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) during a parliamentary committee meeting, complained to Nawaz Sharif’s younger brother and party chief Shahbaz, also the Chief Minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province.
Shahbaz while defending his sibling, said: “No one is more patriotic than Nawaz Sharif”. However, he also added that he will try and convince the PML-N ‘supreme leader’ to consult the party before talking on sensitive matters, Dawn newspaper reported. The National Security Committee, Pakistan’s top civil-military body, held a special meeting on Monday and came out with a statement, condemning the “fallacious” statement by Sharif about the Mumbai terror attack and termed it as “incorrect and misleading”. Shahbaz, according to DawnNews TV’s sources, said no one should say things which could hurt the country, and assured his party that there will soon be a softness in Sharif’s rhetoric on contentious issues.
Several PML-N party members — reportedly including Sardar Ashiq Hussain Gopang, Abdul Rahman Kanju and Shafqat Baloch — expressed concern over Sharif’s remarks. Lawmakers apprised Shehbaz of the issues faced by them and the negative atmosphere following Nawaz Sharif’s controversial statement on the Mumbai attacks, Geo TV reported, quoting sources as saying. The lawmakers said that they will face problems when they approach voters during election time. The PML-N president promised to take their grievances to party supremo Nawaz Sharif, the report said.
Shahbaz, 66, who has taken over from 68-year-old Nawaz Sharif as the PML-N president following the latter’s disqualification, said that “whoever arranged that interview is the biggest enemy of Nawaz”. Shehbaz also claimed that Nawaz Sharif’s remarks were taken out of context. In an attempt to do damage control, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also intervened and said that media reports misquoted the former prime minister. Around 120 lawmakers of the party attended the meeting.