Strongly reacting to the arrest of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president, opposition leaders have accused the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of resorting to ‘political victimisation’ of the largest opposition party ahead of the upcoming by-elections.
In a Twitter message, Shehbaz’s elder brother and former premier Nawaz Sharif was quoted as declaring the arrest not only ‘sad’ but also ridiculous. “As Punjab CM, Shehbaz has set a glorious example of service, trust and integrity. The people of Pakistan as well as foreign governments and international institutions have acknowledged Shehbaz Sharif’s contribution,” Sharif reportedly said.
Addressing a press conference in Lahore after the arrest, Shehbaz’s son and Punjab Assembly’s Opposition Leader Hamza Shehbaz said the arrests of the PML-N leader right before elections is is an attempt to give the PTI a walkover in the by-elections
He said the PTI should team up with NAB to ensure more arrests of the PML-N leaders “but that would not break our spirit… in fact after today we are in high spirits and even more powerful than before.”
“The real concern of the PTI, which has formed its government by a slim margin of four votes, is that if the by-elections on 11 National Assembly seats are won by the opposition parties, they will end up losing their government.
“Imran Khan has to realise that the government cannot run its affairs by instilling fears in the hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan. The PM must come out of the container and the opposition-mode and have a big heart,” he added.
PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb also criticised the PTI government for ‘pursuing policies of the 1990s’, adding that statements of federal and provincial information ministers proved beyond doubt the ‘vindictiveness’ of NAB “which is being used as an instrument of political expedience against opponents”.
“The opposition leader was called by NAB in water filtration case but was arrested in a public-private partnership venture, Ashiyana Housing Scheme, without any case, warrant or prior intimation, ignoring the undeniable fact that it was Shehbaz Sharif’s government that had pointed out lapses, which resulted in a decision not to pay a penny to the company concerned,” she said in a media interaction.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the second largest opposition party, also condemned the arrest, with the former opposition leader calling its ‘pre-poll rigging’.
“It is the first time since 1985 that an opposition leader has been arrested. The arrest ahead of by-elections is a hint towards pre-poll rigging,” said PPP’s Khursheed Shah.
“The arrest of the opposition leader has insulted parliament. The government is taking such actions due to its failures over its 100-day plan,” he added.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari during a news conference was asked about the arrest but did not comment.
“I wouldn’t want to comment without reading the case and want to leave it at that.”
Former MQM lawmaker Syed Ali Raza Abidi tweeting on the arrest of Sharif said the PML-N would win the upcoming by-elections in Punjab with ease.
Former Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in connection with the Ashiana Housing Scheme case on Friday.
The NAB accused Shehbaz of misusing his powers while being the chief minister of Punjab in an inquiry pertaining to Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC).
The anti-graft body said that the inquiry conducted so far reveals sufficient evidence to prove involvement of former chief minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif "in the commission of offences as defined under section 9(a) and Schedule of the National Accountability Bureau 1999."