In conversation with former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi: “NAB is used for political persecution”


Truth Tracker:  Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was convicted on Monday by an accountability court in the Al Azizia reference and sentenced to seven years in jail. He has been acquitted in the Flagship reference. What is your take on it?

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi: This is another historic verdict in which injustice is being committed against politicians. We respect the court and will accept the verdict but history and the people will not. There is no evidence in either case; it could be shown to any lawyer. Around the world, everyone laughs about the verdicts in our cases.

This is the first time in Pakistan’s history that a closed court verdict has been announced like this. The court’s doors were locked and policemen with guns were stationed outside. The PML-N has suffered through this before and will do so again. Today’s leaders should realise this.

TT: What will be the future strategy of PML-N? Is PML-N planning to start protests across the country now?

SKA: We will appeal this verdict, as this is our right. The court had suspended Nawaz’s sentence in the Avenfield properties case and we are confident it will do so in this case.

We will protest as well, as it is our right. We will protest in parliament and outside it but will not resort to violence. I assure you that we won’t damage democracy in the country.

TT: According to Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry the politics of PML-N is over and he also claimed that former PM Mian Nawaz Sharif is asking for National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) for his daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif is it just the war of words between the government and opposition or there is some truth behind this?

SKA: Well, it is the first government in the history of Pakistan which is scared of opposition. We were also in government for the last five years but we never said anything like that about the opposition when we were in power. So, it is a weird statement by my friend Fawad Chaudhry he also used to give similar statements that politics of Nawaz Sharif is over when he was with former President General Musharraf. He (Fawad) is habitual and would continue saying such stuff. PTI is in power now and Imran Khan is the Prime Minister of the country my advice for them would be that instead of threatening us it is the time for them to work hard and deliver. They won’t achieve anything by threatening us we are saying that we are ready for accountability. If government and any other institution is interested in accountability, they are more than welcome to do it. We are not scared of accountability but we are scared of economic problems faced by the country and we don’t see any government making efforts to bring the country out of these prevailing economic crises. Investors are not happy; inflation is increasing with every passing day; the price of dollar is hiking; the condition of stock markets is worsening and none of the economic indicators of the country are positive today and all of them are negative.

TT: Opposition had a meeting in parliament on 17th December. Is opposition planning to launch movement against the PTI government?

SKA: No, there is no need of any movement as PTI just came to power few months ago we are saying that they should do their work, solve the problems faced by the country. Our role is of the opposition we could continue doing positive opposition for the betterment of the country. We would criticise the steps of the government; bring the problems in front of the masses and we are the opposition which could tell about the solutions to the problems faced by the country. Now we have to do the re-organisation of our party. Elections took place whether it was fair or not whole Pakistan knows that but it is the need of the hour to learn lesson from it, re-organise the party and start preparing for the next elections.

TT: There are news reports that former president Asif Ali Zardari and former PM Nawaz Sharif had a telephonic conversation and they are expected to meet in January 2019. Is it true? If this meeting is taking place than what would be the agenda of this meeting between the two? Don’t you think that January would be too late and meeting should take place now before the final verdict of the references against NS?

SKA: I am not aware of any such meeting or conversation I also heard these news reports. But the thing is such meetings take place as both the parties are in the parliament even Leader of the opposition Shahbaz Sharif had a meeting with former President Asif Ali Zardari at the floor of the house.

TT: According to Truth Tracker sources former PM Nawaz Sharif is reluctant to meet former President Asif Ali Zardari. What is your opinion about it?

SKA: There is no reluctance but see there is no such need to meet him (Zardari) at the moment. If it would be necessary to meet then they would definitely meet. As I told you that both the parties are in opposition in the National Assembly and they do meet each other. You have seen that on the issue of former Railways minister Saad Rafique’s production order PPP fully supported our stance along with other opposition parties. PPP also supported during walkouts and raised the issue as well. So, PPP and the PML-N are almost on the same page as the opposition parties.

TT: Even if Mr. Zardari and Mr. Nawaz meet there is nothing unusual? It is not yesteryears, when Mr. Asif Ali Zardari was reluctant to meet Mr. Nawaz Sharif when he even went to Churchill Hotel London but that meeting could not take place as Mr. Zardari was angry at that time. Their relationship improved and it is a new situation now?

SKA: Yes, there is nothing unusual if they meet and there is no dead end in politics. The meetings and conversations solve the issues and clear the misunderstandings between the two parties. As the ultimate aim of the two parties is same that is the progress of Pakistan and the politics of respect in Pakistan.

TT: Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rasheed is repeatedly claiming that former PM Nawaz Sharif is asking for NRO for his daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif and his (Nawaz Sharif) current political fight is for the survival of his daughter but on the other hand Maryam Nawaz Sharif is completely silent?

SKA: Well, I don’t give importance to the statements of such people they continue making such statements and political sloganeering. They are political jokers and the truth is that PML-N has a narrative that is the supremacy of the parliament and the constitution of Pakistan and Mian Nawaz Sharif strongly believes in that and we fought the 2018 elections on the same narrative. We are in politics and part of the parliament. We would continue playing our role and burn the midnight oil for democracy in this country. There is no NRO and these people don’t even know what NRO stands for. Dictators do NRO’s who have ultimate powers during their tenures. So, I failed to understand they are talking in which context. The aim of NRO is that I forgive all your mistakes and sins but according to constitution of Pakistan neither the prime minister nor the government have these rights that they forgive the mistakes of someone. The NROs are given by military dictators there is no role of NROs in democracy. These people got birth from the womb of dictatorship. Who asked for the NRO? And can they give the NRO? They should tell this to masses.

TT: Prime Minister Imran Khan gave a drama statement about mid-term elections and even former President Asif Ali Zardari showed similar apprehensions. Are you foreseeing situation on ground that mid-term elections might be held?

SKA: In a democratic setup mid-term election could be only arranged by the government because they could dissolve the assemblies and go for new elections. There are usually two reasons for Mid-term elections:

Firstly, you are in a very stable position to get better mandate from the masses due to which you call for early elections.

Secondly, if government is unable to run the government in a proper manner then they go to the people for early elections.

So, Imran Khan should decide that country is going through which situation. There is no doubt that the situation is not good for the country. If he wants to run from this situation then he would definitely call for mid-term elections.

However, we wish that democracy should strengthen and move ahead in Pakistan and if a mid-term election is the solution for that then they should take place. But I think no government came in the history of mankind which started talking about mid-term elections just after few months coming into power.

Presently, government is facing no problem in running the affairs of the country. There is no problem of majority in the parliament or any other hurdle.

The problem is they neither have the experience nor the resolve and commitment to run the affairs of the country which seems to be the problem.

They are claiming that they are working hard for the betterment of the country but on ground have you seen any trickle-down effect? It is the job of the opposition to talk and criticise. The government should stand and deliver and the government which starts talking and delivers nothing it fails very quickly that is the situation of this PTI government.

TT: You are criticising the government that they failed to deliver but if we see the opposition they are also divided. Mr. Zardari is facing the fake accounts case. On the other hand, According to Truth Tracker sources NAB chairman had signed the reference sent to him against the Leader of the opposition Shahbaz Sharif and the other references are being prepared against him. Don’t you think that opposition is in more trouble if mid-term elections are held now? How would opposition contest that?

SKA: You had put leader of the opposition behind the bars with 64 days remand and still fails to prove him guilty isn’t the whole world and the people of Pakistan are watching this? Such things don’t happen in police states and we claim that we are a democratic country. We are not scared of such things we had faced political victimisation during Musharraf’s tenure as well. But we feel bad because it was dictatorship and this is a democratic setup.

TT: Parliamentarians from Opposition Benches wrote a letter to NAB Chairman that they want to meet him? What are the salient features of this letter and what would be the agenda of this meeting?

SKA: Yes, we wrote this letter I am also one of the signatories. We wrote that what NAB is doing today in the country it is undermining and weakening democracy in the country. Today there is an environment of fear in the country; businesses are collapsing; bureaucracy isn’t happy; today there is a perception that whosoever speaks in the parliament NAB reference would be prepared against him.

We will not talk about personal stuff with Chairman NAB and we want accountability in this country but if accountability is used for political persecution and undermining the voice of opposition, then we would speak about it in a loud and clear manner.

So, we only want to tell the NAB chairman what is happening in the country is he aware of the situation. What NAB is doing? Why Accountability process is not across the board? We want to convey these things to him.

Because government says that NAB is completely independent and they have nothing to do with it but on the other hand claims that they are doing accountability in the country.

We even admit this claim but as Chairman NAB is there, we will convey everything to him that because of NAB democracy is weakening and the sovereignty of the parliament is compromised and the country is giving an impression of dictatorial regime.

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