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March 13, 2019

In jail, PPP leaders find a different Nawaz

Top Story

March 13, 2019

ISLAMABAD: For Pakistan People’s Party delegation, meeting with Nawaz Sharif in jail was a mind changing experience. Nawaz they knew was different from Nawaz they met in Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore late Monday. “He’s a man of strong nerves; entirely different from the sheepish attitude of his party at this time of crisis,” said a PPP leader who met him under the leadership of Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the Chairman of PPP.

The PPP had been taunting PML-N leadership for the exile deal it brokered in 2000 with the former military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf. That Sharifs don’t have the mettle to face hardships of jail was an oft-repeated jibe. No more. “What a politician wants in jail? That he could transfer himself to a hospital. The opposite is true in case of Nawaz Sharif,” said a PPP leader who didn’t want to be named.

He is no more scared of jail. “I have settled with the current situation. My worsening health conditions notwithstanding, I will not beg for treatment at hospital. Death is certain. It will come no matter whether I’m in jail or outside of it. Let it come here. The fear of it should not be the driving force behind any decision,” Nawaz is quoted to have told the visiting delegates.

At this, Bilawal intervened. “Mian sb, you are a top politician; three-time elected prime minister. Bail or no bail, they can’t afford to keep you in jail for a long period,” he said. Nawaz didn’t answer; he gave a hearty smile instead. Asked how his acquittal is possible without judicial intervention, the PPP leader who spoke to The News said: “I’m not talking about legal aspects. Politically speaking, Nawaz in jail is more dangerous than Nawaz outside.”

The political minds in the government echo the same line as they counsel their top leadership which is unable to understand this point at the moment, the PPP leader said. “Sooner than later, Imran Khan will realise this,” he continued. In the next six months, sympathy for Nawaz will skyrocket as the impression of discrimination against him is getting stronger, the visiting delegate said.

Narrating details of the meeting, the PPP leader recalled that conversation started as the jailed Sharif described background of his case, deteriorating health conditions and the alleged insulting attitude of the government in the name of treatment. While in Adiala Jail, they transferred me to PIMS despite my repeated refusal, he told the visiting delegates. “They even didn’t share medical reports with me,” the PPP leader quoted him alleging the government.

I had even refused to apply for the parole after the death of my wife, Nawaz told the PPP delegation. In a separate conversation with The News, a senior official of Adiala Jail recalled that Nawaz was fully composed upon hearing the death of his wife. “We had first sent Capt (R) Safdar into his cell to break the death news with caution. It, however, turned out that he had already made his mind to hear this. There was no tear in his eyes. He has very strong nerves,” the jailer had told The News.

Now in Lahore prison, Nawaz told PPP delegation, they kept me moving aimlessly from one hospital to another hospital making mockery of me. “This superintendent sb (SSP Kot Lakhpat jail) is witness, I asked him to take me back after they kept me transferring,” Nawaz told the PPP delegation. He reiterated his resolve not to accept treatment offer of the government.

While the PPP delegation returned with an impression of Nawaz as a man of steel, they were disappointed by the cowardly attitude of his party. As we went to meet him, the PPP leader said, our 200-300 PPP workers assembled outside of the prison premises to greet Bilawal. “The journalists who were present there for coverage told us that this had so far been the biggest gathering of workers since Nawaz jailed there,” he said voicing despair at the performance of PML-N leaders.

Asked if any political discussion occurred during the course of this meeting, the PPP leader said that Charter of Democracy was discussed. “It was decided to accelerate efforts to work on the unimplemented part of CoD,” he said. Regarding the possibility of meeting of any other party leader with Nawaz, he ruled it out but signaled the likelihood of a meeting between Bilawal and Maryam Nawaz on CoD.

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