Nawaz backs Fazl’s Azadi March

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Shafaqna Pakistan:Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has decided in principle to participate in the so-called Azadi March of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (Azadi March), starting on Oct 27.

Talking to the media outside an accountability court here on Friday, the incarcerated former premier, Nawaz Sharif, announced full support to the anti-government protest campaign of Maulana Fazlur Rehman. “We consider the stance of Maulana Fazlur Rehman as our own. Our party will join the Azadi March and it will be part of the movement by the opposition parties against the fake government,” he told the media.

The PML-N supremo has also tasked his London-based son Hussain Nawaz to remain in contact with Maulana Fazlur Rehman for better coordination during the protest movement, according to the Sharif family members.

However, the rest of the central leadership of the party, particularly party president Shahbaz Sharif, is still shying away from supporting the Azadi March openly. The march will start on Oct 27 and reach Islamabad on 31st. This reluctance to unequivocally support the march has been the major source of confusion among the party ranks and rumours that Shahbaz Sharif and other top leaders were against joining the march.

Nawaz Sharif said that right after the elections, the Maulana had suggested forresignation en masse from the assemblies in protest. But the other opposition parties had convinced him otherwise. “I believe (now) his stance carried weight at that time,” he added.

Sources privy to the developments said the final decision about joining the march would be announced in the light of a letter written by PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif to Shahbaz Sharif and subsequent deliberations by the senior leadership including members of the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) on Saturday (today).

They added the decision to join the march would be announced by PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif in a press conference at his Model Town residence on Saturday. Former PM said: “I think rejecting Maulana Sahib (his call for march) today would be wrong.” He said he had written a detailed letter to Shahbaz Sharif and he would brief (the party). “We also appreciate Maulana Sahib’s determination,” he added.

The former premier alleged that he was in jail for raising the slogan “Vote ko izzat do” (Give respect to vote). “If we have to earn respect in the world, we will have to first respect our own people and respect the (power of) vote,” the former PM said and added “We have stuck to our stance of “Vote ko izzat do”. He said nations did not deviate from their principles and did not care about the consequences.

Sources said the PML-N leadership would deliberate on the letter, written by the party supremo and announce the decision to join the JUI-F Azadi March. PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb confirmed that the party would announce its decision to join Azadi March on Saturday (today).

Separately, son-in-law of Nawaz Sharif, Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar told the media that former premier has sent another letter to his son, Hussain Nawaz in London, in which he had given detailed instructions and programme about how to participate in the Azadi March and take part in the anti-government movement’s later stages. Hussain Nawaz would remain in touch with Maulana Fazlur Rehman and the PML-N central leadership during the march to coordinate according to Nawaz Sharif’s instructions, he said.

Capt Safdar also told the media that Nawaz Sharif and Fazlur Rehman had been in contact with each other and messages were conveyed during weekly meetings. He said Nawaz was given into NAB custody in a fresh case for breaking the links between the two leaders.

Capt Safdar also refuted the impression that Shahbaz was going against Nawaz Sharif’s decision regarding the Azadi March. He said Shahbaz Sharif, as he is known, was totally loyal to his brother and would even jump into a ditch if ordered by Nawaz. “Don’t underestimate Shahbaz Sharif, as he is a time bomb, which could explode at the right time,” he added.

Earlier, an accountability court Friday granted National Accountability Bureau (NAB) 14-day physical remand of imprisoned former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in connection with the Chaudhry Sugar Mills (CSM) a money-laundering case.

He was presented before the accountability court after his arrest by NAB from Kot Lakhpat jail. He would be produced before the court on Oct 25 again. Earlier on Friday, a NAB team reached Kot Lakhpat jail and took the former premier into custody. Nawaz Sharif is serving a seven-year sentence after being found guilty in Al Azizia reference. Later, he was brought to an accountability court in Lahore to secure a 15-day physical remand.

NAB accused Nawaz of being a direct beneficiary of the Chaudhry Sugar Mills and his daughter, Maryam, who was arrested in connection with the case in August along with her cousin Yousaf Abbas, of holding over 12 million shares in the sugar mills.

Members of the Sharif family are accused of money-laundering in the garb of sale/purchase of Chaudhry Sugar Mills Ltd shares. As the hearing commenced, accountability court Judge Chaudhry Ameer Muhammad Khan asked where Nawaz was. Responding to court’s call, he proceeded to the rostrum.

Lending his arguments in support of Nawaz’s arrest, NAB prosecutor Hafiz Asadullah Awan alleged that in 2016, Nawaz Sharif had the highest number of shares as a shareholder in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills and Shamim Sugar Mills. The former was established in 1992.

NAB prosecutor told the court that in 1992, Nawaz was the owner of shares worth Rs43 million. Maryam Nawaz, Shahbaz Sharif and others were shareholders. “Nawaz did not say how many shares he owned in 1992. He was provided with Rs55.5 million from a foreign company,” he told the court. Awan said that they still do not know who the owner of this foreign company is.

A day earlier, NAB chairman issued arrest warrants for the PML-N leader. NAB said the accused committed money-laundering for purchasing shares in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills. Nawaz’s daughter Maryam is also on judicial remand in the same jail in connection with Chaudhry Sugar Mills case. Nawaz’s nephew Yousaf Abbas is at Camp Jail on judicial remand in the same case.

In his counter arguments, Nawaz’s counsel Advocate Amjad Pervez, denied the allegation that his client had ever been a shareholder or director of the CSM, adding that he had no role in establishment of the CSM.

He said this was not for the first time that Nawaz Sharif’s assets were being scrutinized as in the past the opposing governments had also investigated establishment of the companies, but no illegality or irregularities were found.

He said for the last 30 years, Nawaz had declared his assets, adding that all of Nawaz’s children had been directors and shareholders in the sugar mill. “NAB’s dishonesty in the case is evident and this is just one more case being formed on political grounds,” said Pervez.

Pervez pointed out that there was no justification for another probe as a Joint Investigation Team (JIT), formed by the Supreme Court, had already investigated all the issues. As a result of the JIT investigation, NAB had filed a reference in Islamabad, he added.

He requested the court to decline NAB’s plea for physical remand of Nawaz Sharif and asked the court to discharge him from the CSM case. He said all the allegations against his client were fake, fabricated and baseless.

He also questioned Nawaz’s arrest and said: “Nawaz Sharif’s arrest is not as per law, as he was serving his sentence after a trial. Nawaz should not be handed over to the agency on physical remand for even an hour,” he argued.

He noted that his client was already in prison and if NAB wanted to conduct an investigation, they could have simply visited him in his cell. In his statement before the court, PML-N supremo refuted the allegations of money-laundering and termed them fake, adding that NAB is conducting an investigation on declared assets,” he said.

“The allegations that have been made are baseless. Our name was in 32 industries, tell us where there was corruption.” Nawaz said he had been a minister as well as the prime minister three times and said that if corruption was proven during these time periods he would withdraw not just from the case, but from politics.

He pointed out that NAB team had visited him only once in jail and he had answered all questions. He, however, added that he had not responded to questions which he did not have knowledge of.

Nawaz said he had requested for meeting his lawyer but he was not allowed. He said NAB officials had come and stated the grounds for the arrest.

“Musharraf created NAB for me. Musharraf had only one target which was Nawaz Sharif. NAB is only being used against PML-N and the opposition.

“I am already in jail, if there is such an enmity [with me] tell me where they want to take me. Send me to Guantanamo… I will never bow down before them,” Nawaz added. “If they think that the PML-N will panic and bow down [to pressure], this will never happen.”

To this, PML-N supporters chanted slogans in the courtroom which irked the judge and he asked lawyers to maintain court decorum. The judge also asked Nawaz only to focus on the case.

The court proceedings were also disrupted by party workers attempting to take pictures with the former premier. Strict security arrangements were placed before the Nawaz appearance as all roads leading to the accountability court were closed.

A large number of party workers also gathered outside the court to welcome their leader. They showered rose-petals on their leaders and chanted slogans in his favour. The PML-N leadership including spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, Nawaz’s son-in-law Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar, Senator Asif Kirmani, Pervaiz Rashid and Ameer Muqam had come to court to show solidarity with their leader.