The interview of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to English Daily Dawn has descended the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) into chaos. As some of the party leaders including Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif in damage control mode, the ousted Prime Minister is not only sticking to his guns but dragging himself and his party deeper into trouble. In the interview published on Saturday, Nawaz was quoted as saying, “Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial?”
The interview was given much attention in India and resulted in Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif trying to play it down; the Chief Minister issued a statement on Sunday, saying that the news report had “incorrectly attributed certain remarks to PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif, which do not represent PML-N’s party policy”. However, the very next morning Nawaz reiterated his stance and when asked to comment about his interview asked reporters, “What did I say in the interview that was wrong?” Shortly after Nawaz’s remarks, the National Security Committee (NSC) rejected and denounced former prime minister’s claim about the Mumbai attacks and the subsequent trial in Pakistan as “incorrect”, “misleading” and “fallacious” and noted that it could have been spurred either by his “misconceptions or grievances”.
But bizarrely, following the press release of the NSC meeting, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi met Nawaz Sharif and later in a press conference claimed that Nawaz Sharif’s statements about the Mumbai attacks were being misrepresented by Indian media and people in Pakistan should not become party to the propaganda. The PM went on to claim that the NSC did not condemn Nawaz, but the incorrect reporting of the interview. Despite the clarification by the Prime Minister, Nawaz once again stuck to his guns when he addressed a rally later in the day. On Tuesday, Nawaz dropped another bombshell by first ‘rejecting’ the NSC press release and then by claiming that the content of Cyril Almeida’s 2016 ‘Act against militants..’, story termed Dawn Leaks were actually true (something he denied back then when he was the Prime Minister). The stance taken by Nawaz Sharif seems a political suicide mission, the brunt of which will be suffered by his party.