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Thursday April 18, 2024

Six-hour long PDM meeting: PM orders nailing anti-COAS campaigners

Multi-party huddle condemns smear campaign against state intuitions

By Ali Raza & Muhammad Anis & Muhammad Saleh Zaafir
March 21, 2023
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (from left), Pakistan Poeples Party Co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan Democratic Movement President Maulana Fazlur Rehman. — AFP/File
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (from left), Pakistan Poeples Party Co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan Democratic Movement President Maulana Fazlur Rehman. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Monday directed the interior minister to strictly deal with those running a smear campaign against the army chief and the national institutions.

Taking to Twitter, he said: “PTI’s disgusting smear campaign against Chief of the Army Staff General Asim Munir at the behest of Imran Niazi is deserving of the strongest condemnation.” The campaign is intolerable and is a continuation of a conspiracy against the national institutions, said a press release, issued by the PM Office.

He called for decisive action against such individuals to preserve the integrity and stability of the nation. Throwing yet another brickbat at the PTI chairman, the premier said: “This man Niazi [Imran Khan] is stooping to unprecedented lows in his desperation for power & going to the extent of damaging the country & undermining our armed forces & their leadership.”

He urged overseas Pakistanis to raise their voice against the “foreign-funded” campaign. He said as the dirty political game was being played through the expatriates, they should not become part of the conspiracy. Imran Khan was violating the constitution by dragging the institutions and their leadership into his ‘dirty’ politics, the PM added.

A campaign against an army chief appointed purely on merit for the first time in the country’s history could only be an agenda of the anti-Pakistan elements, he added. “The whole nation stands by its institutions and is united against miscreants,” the prime minister remarked.

He also warned of strict legal action against those fanning chaos and subversion in the country. PM Shehbaz Sharif’s statement came after supporters of his predecessor took their protest to the streets of London, outside the White House in Washington after staging a demonstration outside the residence of PMLN Quaid Nawaz Sharif in London. The protesters gathered outside the residence of the Sharif family on Edgware Road where pro-Khan slogans were chanted during the protest.

In meanwhile intelligence gathering agencies have initiated the probe about the campaign that was started on foreign soil immediately in the wake of obnoxious remarks of Imran Khan widely covered by the foreign media some 48 to 72 hours ago. Indian media is highlighting the campaign and airing the pictures of Pakistan’s Army officers.

The sources said that the malicious campaign hatched by the PTI against the Army abroad had the visible support of Indian lobbies, which had been active for decades in foreign capitals. The PTI anti-army campaign had provided the material, they were hectically looking for. The agencies would seek the assistance of Pakistan’s mission abroad in compiling extensive reports regarding the incidents. The PTI’s social media engaged in exaggeration in giving numbers of the demonstrators. The initial reports suggest that at no place, the number was impressive although Indians were also seen with them. The agencies are gathering information about the contacts of the protesters in Pakistan as well. The report would be submitted to the PM and the government would consider some tangible action on account of the attempts by the PTI to tarnish the image of the country with the connivance of the enemies, the sources said.

Meanwhile, the top leadership of the ruling alliance, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), Monday failed to evolve a consensus on a proposal to ban Imran Khan-led PTI following the recent clashes between the party workers and police at Islamabad Judicial Complex and Zaman Park.

However, the participants expressed serious concerns over violence, committed by the PTI activists, and asked the government to deal with violent elements with an iron hand.

The meeting discussed in detail the country’s economic, political and law and order situation with particular reference to the unrest, created by the PTI workers in Islamabad and Lahore.

According to a declaration released after the meeting, the PDM leadership also strongly condemned the smear campaign against the Chief of Army Staff and institutions particularly on social media and from outside the country and demanded action against miscreants.

“The PDM expressed serious concerns over the use of trained people of banned outfits to invade institutions and attack them,” the declaration said adding that it was an act against the state which could not be tolerated.

Referring to the social media campaign regarding the Lasbela helicopter crash and against the army chief, it was observed that no civilised society allows such trends and the same could not be termed freedom of expression.

The declaration observed that elements, who were involved in the campaign against Lasbela martyrs, were also involved in a smear campaign against the army chief, pointing out it was being done from outside the country. The PDM leadership also asked overseas Pakistanis not to become part of the same campaign.

The meeting also decided to take strict action according to law against those involved in attack on Judicial Complex in Islamabad, burning and damaging police vehicles, public property and injuring police officers and jawans. It was decided to summon National Assembly session on March 22 (Wednesday) to take important decision in order to establish writ of the state.

The sources said that a senior officer of Lahore Police briefed the meeting on what happened in Lahore apprising PDM leaders about manhandling of police personnel and torture on them.

According to the declaration, the PDM meeting also observed that standards of justice at present did not seem to be equal. “There cannot be two standards of justice,” the meeting’s participants observed.

The PDM meeting also condemned derogatory and mean language used by ex-chief justice Saqib Nisar against PMLN Senior Vice President Maryam Nawaz. Maryam Nawaz reiterated her demand PTI due to its violent acts should be declared as terrorist organization. Some participants also stressed that elections to the National Assembly and provincial assemblies should be staged simultaneously on the same day.

The meeting continued for six hours to discuss the recent political situation. Sources privy to the meeting proceedings said the PDM meeting discussed the proposal to ban the PTI in threadbare. However, the sources said Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and another political party opposed the option to ban the PTI.

The sources said that the meeting was informed that the proposal was flawed as the courts would soon strike down the government decision to ban the PTI and Imran Khan’s party would emerge victorious out of the crisis.

During the meeting, the sources said, majority of the participants were of the view that they should not be blackmailed from Imran Khan’s statements. “We should not be afraid of such statement, as PTI was exposing itself,” the sources quoted the PDM leaders as saying. The meeting participants also raised questions over the ‘instant relief’ Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan was getting from courts, arguing that the former premier gets bail whatever he files an application.

Separately, Caretaker Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi Monday said he had given a “free hand” to the police to establish the writ of the state in the province. Enough is enough, the state will enforce its order now, he thundered.

He told a press conference that earlier he had been asking the law enforcement agencies to hold back, but would no longer do so. “We are also forming a JIT on the incidents that happened in the last five to seven days,” added Naqvi.

“Right now it is really important to establish the writ of the state and writ of the government,” said the interim CM. He added that law-enforcement agencies had reached the gate of Khan’s residence twice but he called them back.

The caretaker CM said that the reason he asked them to return was that he did not want “anything to happen” that would ruin the environment or cause a loss of life.

Naqvi also shared that when the police cleared Canal Road, a cop returning from duty was attacked and an Elite Force car was attacked the same night.

“We told the policemen this morning that you can do what you want to do establish the writ of the government. If anyone challenges the police, they will break their hand,” said the CM.

He added that it was not possible that the cops would continue getting a beating just because he had asked them to hold themselves back. “We have to establish the writ of the government at all costs. I am standing by the police force. If anyone takes law into their hands now they will be given a response they will never forget,” said CM Naqvi. “If anyone attacks the police, he will be paid in the same coin,” he warned.

He added that the kind of “terrorism” the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was perpetrating was not what political parties did.

“They are terrorists. A joint investigation team will be formed and a notification will be issued by evening,” said the caretaker CM. He also added that the interim provincial government was writing a letter to the Election Commission of Pakistan for sharing details about the incidents in the province.

He said PTI Chairman Imran Khan was openly threatening policemen with dire consequences. “Police cannot provide him security while he is cursing them. They can hold a public rally wherever they want but the law enforcers who they have been vilifying will not protect them anymore,” said the interim CM.

He said he wanted to explain facts regarding the incidents that took place at Zaman Park that targeted media men. He announced financial aid worth one lakh and five lakh each for slightly and critically injured policemen and declared that the government was standing with police.