The tricky issue of “deal” involving incarcerated deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif has again come under debate with senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders belonging to different party lobbies offering their explanations.
In off-the-record and on-the-record conversations with The News, they were unanimous in asserting that the offer to Nawaz Sharif is by and large the same that was presented to him before the July 2018 general elections when he was in London.
They also said that the ex-premier’s reply was and is the same in unambiguous terms: Undo what you have done to me and publicly apologise for the actions taken against me.
When approached, senior PML-N leader Senator Pervez Rashid said that the rulers have nothing to offer to Nawaz Sharif and believed that whenever the decision in any case against him is about to be announced, the talk about deal is deliberately set in motion to give message to different sides.
He ruled out the departure of Nawaz Sharif and Maryam from Pakistan to London or any other country as part of any presumed deal. “This is also their country and why they should leave it. Nobody has the right to ask them to abandon Pakistan and should not think of any such agreement by the former prime minister and his daughter. Even when they were in London by the side of ailing Begum Kulsoom, they were asked not to come back to Pakistan and let the general elections take place, but they rejected this.”
Pervez Rashid said that Nawaz Sharif has rendered great sacrifices for his principles. “Every step has been taken to humiliate and slur him over the past four years. His daughter was arrested before his eyes. She is not allowed to see him. Do you expect a deal from such a person who has suffered and is suffering comprehensively for the democratic cause?”
Another top PML-N leader, who held a key ministry in the cabinets of Nawaz Sharif and Shahid Khakan Abbasi, told The News on condition of anonymity that he was not acting as a go-between to persuade the ex-premier to consent to the deal. “I am being slandered.”
He swore to God for at least thrice during the talk with this correspondent denying that he was working to soften Nawaz Sharif so that the latter gives a nod to the compromise. “One can scan through the record of meetings with Nawaz Sharif in the Kot Lakhpat Jail, and one would find that I have not met him since long because of the restrictions on the number of visitors imposed by the government.”
When the PML-N leader was asked about his alleged secret late night sessions with the former premier as claimed by some, he said it was totally baseless and concocted. “The only contact I have with Nawaz Sharif is through a few people who are allowed by the jail authorities to see him. I keep asking about his health and wellbeing and convey my greetings to him. No doubt, I have the best of the relationship with Nawaz Sharif since decades, and enjoy his complete trust and he never doubted my sincerity and commitment to the PML-N.”
However, he said that there were some people in the PML-N, who were unable even to get the votes of the locality where they were living, who keep maligning leaders like him and spreading rumours about a deal. He refused to name them.
Another senior PML-N stalwart, who also held a top office in the previous government, said on the condition of not being named that he has never tried to prevail upon the former prime minister to concur to any deal that will prove disastrous for the PML-N. “If Nawaz Sharif wants to clinch a deal, he doesn’t need any PML-N man like me or somebody else to convince him for that. He can alone do this and the entire party will stand with him because he is the PML-N and none else is a vote getter in the party,” he said.
However, he said sarcastically that there were some leaders, who did not want to spoil their “CVs” by presenting themselves as nice guys to remain in “good books” of certain quarters. Such a lot, he said, religiously follows the official policies on certain national issues.
It is beyond an iota of doubt that PML-N President and leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif has always been reconciliation promoter and anti-confrontation. He also keeps urging his elder brother to calm down the situation, but Nawaz Sharif has the final say and Shahbaz Sharif has to bow before his decision. Because of his renewed health back problem, the PML-N chief met the ex-premier in jail two days back after three weeks.
Pro- and anti-deal leaders admit that any move as a result of which Nawaz Sharif and Maryam opt for going abroad would extremely hurt the PML-N. Some of them say that it was Nawaz Sharif and Maryam, who have faced the toughest time compared to any other party leader. They believe that when the father and daughter were prepared to stand by their principled politics, others, who have not been confronted with such a difficult situation, should support them.
Shahbaz Sharif was not available for comments on the “deal”. His spokesman and party’s deputy secretary general Ataullah Tarar happened to be abroad. He was approached through WhatsApp and sent a question, but he chose not to respond.