PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif has clarified that the party’s “vote ko izzat do” (respect the vote) slogan was not intended to be anti-establishment, but rather focused on serving the people and improving the lives of those living below the poverty line.
In a news conference held at the party’s central secretariat on Friday, Shehbaz deftly avoided answering any questions about holding the outgoing generals, whom the party has long accused of overthrowing their government, accountable.
The timing of the news conference held just before the anticipated return of party supremo Nawaz Sharif seemed strategic. It appeared to be an attempt to give electronic media screens a steady dose of visuals to portray the party as being in high gear prior to Nawaz’s arrival.
سابق وزیراعظم اور پاکستان مسلم لیگ (ن) کے صدر شہباز شریف اہم پریس کانفرنس کر رہے ہیں https://t.co/eymOAB0mhM
— PMLN DIGITAL (@pmlndigitalpk) October 6, 2023
However, the portrayal does not seem to align with the reality on the ground. Contrary to the party’s efforts to create a sense of momentum, the city, which is considered a stronghold of the PML-N, remained largely nonchalant.
Despite PML-N Chief Organiser Maryam Nawaz’s attempt to gather supporters in a rally in Shahdara, it was eventually transformed into a corner meeting due to a low turnout. Furthermore, during Shehbaz’s whirlwind tour in his own constituency, the party has failed to flex its muscle.
The news conference held on Friday was yet another attempt by the party president to shift the blame of his government’s sixteen-month-long dismal performance, which resulted in skyrocketing inflation, and attribute it to predecessors.
‘Didn’t say I was establishment’s darling’
However, the most notable aspect of the press conference was an attempt to evade questions regarding the current and departing establishment.
Nonetheless, he emphatically denied the impression of having stated that he was the apple of the establishment’s eyes, saying his interaction with the anchor was broadly misreported.
The PML-N leader further stated that he had endured imprisonment from Attack to Adiala and was subsequently sent into exile with Nawaz Sharif, questioning how he could possibly be the apple of their eyes.
When asked about holding those responsible for curtailing Nawaz Sharif’s tenure accountable, he chose not to address those questions directly. Instead, he reiterated that Nawaz was focused on resolving economic challenges, creating jobs, and ending the country’s dependence on aid to transform its destiny to change its fate.
He stressed anti-establishment narrative does not provide jobs, end poverty or end hunger.
Moreover, in response to a question about the responsibility of holding the outgoing COAS responsible for his alleged wealth, he stated that it wasn’t his duty to hold anyone accountable and that it was the job of the NAB.
When asked who would shut the door of interference since politicians happily lend their shoulders to the establishment when push comes to shove, and mentioning when he ran to London to dissuade his brother from naming five individuals, including two generals, Shehbaz jokingly objected to the use of the word “running,” stating that he had actually flown to London.
He asserted the way to end this road of interference was a charter of democracy.
Responding to a query about PTI Chief Imran Khan leading the poll surveys, Shehbaz stated that although we were in the lead during the surveys conducted in 2018, the elections were later tampered with. However, he expressed his belief that the upcoming elections will provide the true answer regarding popularity.
Bizarrely, Shehbaz outright rejected any knowledge of Imran Riaz Khan, a prominent journalist and vlogger who had mysteriously disappeared for four months while he was in office. Despite Imran recently returning home in a weak and traumatised condition, he denied having any awareness.
Instead, the PML-N leader redirected the questioner, who was a well-known anchor himself, to a time when he and his brother Nawaz Sharif were also held at an undisclosed place, their families unaware of their whereabouts.
To a question about forced news conferences and interviews, the former prime minister said he was not in favour of them. A journalist inquired whether Nawaz Sharif was planning to visit Saudi Arabia to secure a relief package by leveraging his connections with China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey to attract investments to Pakistan. he responded that it was better to refrain from speculating but explained that the former intended to perform Umrah during his stay.
He emphasised that Nawaz preferred attracting investments rather than acquiring loans.
Former PM Shehbaz Sharif also said the party’s legal team had cleared the path for the return of his elder brother who had been residing in London in self-imposed exile since 2019, to the country on October 21.
“I want to respectfully say that you [the media] shouldn’t ask if he [Nawaz] is coming or not. It is confirmed now,” he added while addressing a news conference at the PML-N Secretariat in Model Town, Lahore.
He was accompanied by party leaders Khawaja Saad Rafique, Malik Saiful Malook Khokhar, Khawaja Imran Nazeer, and Marriyum Aurangzeb.
Shehbaz maintained that Nawaz, the PML-N supremo, would face the law and Constitution after his return to the country.
Nawaz had left the country for London in the middle of his seven-year jail term on medical grounds. He was later declared a proclaimed offender in the Avenfield and Al Aziza corruption cases for his continuous absence from legal proceedings.
Earlier in the day, a fresh medical report was submitted to the Lahore High Court stating that the PML-N supremo would require “frequent follow-up investigations” for “some residual anginal symptoms” in London and Pakistan.
The PML-N president began his news conference by speaking about the 16-month tenure of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) coalition government led by his party and recalled the challenges faced during his time in the premier’s office.
He referred to floods, inflation, protests and the risk of default that his government had faced.
“What would have happened if Pakistan had defaulted?” he asked, outlining the “consequential impacts” of such a situation.
Read more PML-N snubs talk of Nawaz’s return delay
“However, the Almighty helped us avert default and I am thankful to Nawaz for standing by us,” Shehbaz added. The former premier further said that if Nawaz had instructed the PML-N leaders to save their politics, he would have resigned.
“He [Nawaz] told us to take up the challenge and save the country instead,” he maintained. Shehbaz, who was all praises for his performance, said if they say they were successful on all fronts that would not be right.
However, he continued that the journey of prosperity would resume with Nawaz’s return. He added that the PML-N supremo would share his plan for the country’s future at Minar-e-Pakistan on October 21.
Also, in valedictory remarks to media in London, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif recently expressed his displeasure towards Pakistani protestors outside his homes and offices in the UK where he has been residing for four years, and questioned the purpose of their actions and the benefits they yielded.
In an informal meeting with journalists in London before his imminent return to Pakistan, the former prime minister thanked media representatives for their coverage during his stay in London, regardless of whether it favoured or criticised him.
He emphasised the vital role of journalism in society, asserting the significance of public opinion and urging journalists to refrain from indulging in gossip and slander.
He encouraged critics to focus on constructive criticism for the sake of reform rather than simply criticising for the sake of it.
The PML-N leader also condemned the recent incidents in London, where other women from his party, including Marriyum Aurangzeb, were subjected to unwarranted scrutiny, calling such acts inappropriate and unnecessary.
He questioned the benefits Pakistani protestors gained from their demonstrations over the past four years in the UK and advised them to redirect their efforts towards protesting within Pakistan. “Go home and do protests there.”
“This is my last day in office,” he said, signalling his readiness to leave the UK and return to his homeland.
His departure from London marks the conclusion of his four-year stay in London on medical grounds. It signifies a potential resurgence in his political career as party leaders back home gear up to welcome him to steer the election campaign.
Nawaz plans to return to Pakistan on October 21. Party leaders have said he will secure protective bail and then surrender to courts after attending a reception in his honour.
Bilawal consults legal minds on ZAB reference
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Friday consulted legal minds of his party on the presidential reference case of his late grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
The development came during a meeting of central and provincial officials as well as legal experts of the Peoples Lawyers Forum (PLF) at Zardari House here. Bilawal chaired the meeting.
During the meeting, the PLF officials briefed Bilawal on the presidential reference case of ZAB. Farooq H Naik and Shahadat Awan participated in the meeting through video link while Qazi Bashir, Bahram Khan Tareen, Raheel Kamran Cheema, Sajid Tanoli, Gohar Rehman Khattak, Ghiyasul Haque and Asrar Abbasi were present.
Syed Nayyar Hussain Bokhari, Faisal Karim Kundi, Raza Rabbani and Amna Paracha were also present in the meeting.
Meanwhile, a civil society delegation also met with Bilawal and discussed the challenges faced by the masses and their solutions.
Bilawal appreciated the delegation for their services and performance in their respective fields.
Ahmed Faraz Khan Advocate, Barrister Saifullah Ghori, Bilal Tariq Khan, Dr Abdul Mohiman, Dr Maria Hamid, Dr Salma Malik, Faheem Sardar, Hafiz Muhammad Tahir, Huma Fawad, Jahanzeb Durrani and Kanwal Malik were among those who met the PPP chairman.
Lubna Bhayat, SM Tariq, Javed Akhtar, Pir Mohammad Anwar, Junaid, Raja Mohammad Khan, Sania Kamran, Shehbaz Zaheer, Shamamata Al Ambararbab, Buland Sohail, Kashaf Ahmed, Talha Rahmani, Osama Malik, Usman Iqbal Bandal and Yusuf Masih were part of the delegation. PPP Information Secretary Faisal Karim Kundi was also present on this occasion.
SC to take up appeals against military trial verdict on Dec 13
The Supreme Court is set to take up high-profile cases in the coming week, including the appeals against its verdict in the trial of civilians in military courts and pleas filed by Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi.
A Supreme Court larger bench will hear on Dec 13 the intra-court appeals against its judgment in the case of civilians being tried in military courts. The appeals have been filed by the caretaker governments and the defence ministry.
On Oct 23, a five-judge bench of the SC unanimously declared the trial of civilians in military courts as null and void and ordered that the 103 accused in cases relating to the violence on May 9 and 10 be tried under ordinary criminal laws.
Moreover, Justice Naqvi, who is facing complaints of misconduct, recently wrote a letter to the top court’s three senior-most judges’ panel to point out the silence over his petitions challenging the issuance of a show-cause notice to him by the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) despite the lapse of time as stipulated in the SC (Practice & Procedure) Act, 2023.
A three-judge bench, comprising Justice Aminuddin Khan, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail and Justice Musarrat Hilali, will hear his petitions on December 15.
A nine-member larger bench of the apex court led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa will take up a presidential reference for revisiting the judgment wherein the death sentence of PPP founder and former premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was endorsed.
The bench will conduct its proceedings in courtroom No. 1 on December 12. These decisions were made by the SC three-member committee comprising CJP Isa, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Justice Ijazul Ahsan.
The other high-profile cases that will be tackled by the SC in the coming week include the evacuation of illegal Afghan residents, reclassification of commercial land in Karachi, and reinstatement of the FIR against PTI leader Moonis Elahi.
The top court has scheduled the hearing for petitions challenging the evacuation of foreign nationals, especially Afghan citizens, residing unlawfully in the country.
A three-judge bench, comprising Justice Masood, Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Ayesha Malik, will hear these pleas on December 12.
Farhatullah Babar, Mushtaq Ahmed, Amina Masood Janjua, Mohsin Dawar, Jibran Nasir, Syed Muaz Shah, Pastor Ghazala Parveen, Imaan Zainab Mazari, Ahmad Shabbar, Advocate Imran Shafiq, Luke Victor, Sijal Shafiq, and Rohail Kasi are contesting the evacuation orders.
In a separate case, the dismissal of a Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) case against PTI’s Moonis by a special judge in Lahore and then the upholding of that decision by the Lahore High Court, has been challenged in the SC.
The FIA has filed an appeal against the dismissal, leading to a review in the apex court.
Moreover, the SC, previously deliberating on the powers of the caretaker government, directed the attorney general for Pakistan (AGP) to assist the court in forming a larger bench to interpret its authority.
In addition, review petitions challenging the decision on the reclassification of land in Karachi to commercial status will be heard in the coming week as well. A three-judge bench, led by Justice Ahsan, is scheduled to hear the matter on December 11.
The court has issued notices to all relevant parties, including the Sindh government, following its earlier ruling invalidating the conversion of public land into residential and commercial categories.
These petitions stem from a challenge initiated in 2010 by former Karachi nazim Niamatullah Khan against the alteration of public land’s categorisation.
A five-judge bench, led by CJP Isa, will also take up on December 14 former Islamabad High Court judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui’s petition against his removal.
It is expected that the proceedings of both Bhutto and the ex-IHC judge’s cases will be available on the SC website.
SC to share recorded proceedings on website
The Supreme Court is preparing to release recorded proceedings of cases from Monday, marking a significant shift toward transparency in its operations, instead of broadcasting them live.
Initially, the court will share proceedings from Court No. 1, where the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) presides, on the Supreme Court website after the court’s timing.
The move follows the decision made during a full court meeting on September 18, where a majority allowed live coverage of judicial proceedings under the Supreme Court Practice and Procedure Act 2023. The initiative was piloted with PTV broadcasting the full court proceedings.
Later, a committee, led by Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, was entrusted with assessing various options for streaming court proceedings live.
The committee has now presented its recommendations, deciding that instead of live streaming, recordings of Court No. 1 proceedings will be available on the SC website after the court session on the same day.
The development has evoked mixed reactions among lawyers. While some appreciate the move, a few senior lawyers advocate for live coverage, especially in high-profile cases, believing it would ensure greater transparency.
Read More: CJP says fully cognizant of his duties
The upcoming week holds significant importance for the apex court as it schedules hearings for several important cases.
A nine-member larger bench, headed by CJP Isa, is slated to convene regarding a presidential reference aimed at re-visiting the judgment that endorsed the death sentence of former prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
These proceedings are set to take place in Courtroom No. 1 on December 12.
Additionally, a five-judge bench, also under the leadership of CJP Isa, will address the petition filed by former Islamabad High Court judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui against his removal on December 14.
It is expected that the proceedings of both cases will be available on the SC website
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