LAHORE: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government completed its five-year term for the first time in the history of the party, at midnight on Thursday.
This is the second time any democratically elected government will be completing its tenure in the country, with Pakistan People’s Party being the first one to have done so in 2013.
The PML-N governed the federal and the Punjab government in its five-year tenure, during which it managed to accomplish a number of noteworthy goals; however, the ruling government is not exiting without dealing with its fair share of controversies.
Here’s a small round-up of the controversies the party has been a part of over the last five years.
‘Azadi’ March—PTI sit-in:
On August 14, 2014, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) along with the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) launched a campaign against the government of then prime minister Nawaz Sharif, demanding that he resign over alleged rigging in 2013 polls and the Model Town tragedy, which had seen as many as 14 people killed and 100 others injured when police attacked PAT’s leader Dr Tahirul Qadri’s headquarters during an ‘anti-encroachment’ operation.
Khan had threatened to shut down the entire country in what was perceived as a bid to topple the government. The protest had continued for a record 104 days with the federal capital’s red zone completely paralysed during the period. The violent protests saw policemen being beaten up as well as the storming of the PTV headquarters and the precincts of parliament by the followers of Imran Khan and Qadri.
Both leaders were declared proclaimed offenders and arrest warrants were issued against them, however police failed to arrest them. The protest was finally called off in December 2014 in the wake of the Peshawar Army Public School massacre.
Dawn leaks controversy:
One of the most notorious controversies that the ruling government had to tackle with was the story published in Dawn on October 6, 2016, attributed to unnamed sources. In the story, it was reported that in a high-level meeting on national security, the civilian leaders had spoken about the ‘growing diplomatic isolation’ of Pakistan for lack of action against some militant groups.
The news report had whipped up a storm and while the federal government had repeatedly denied it as ‘fabricated and planted’, the top army brass had called it a “breach of trust on national security”. The issue seemingly settled after federal minister for information Pervaiz Rasheed, prime minister’s special assistant on foreign affairs Tariq Fatemi, and principal information officer Rao Tehseen Ali Khan were removed from their positions.
Backing banned terrorist outfits:
In 2016, Chaudhry Nisar, Pakistan’s interior minister was held responsible for the Quetta carnage of August 8, 2016, in the inquiry report of the Quetta Attack Commission, which was formed by the Supreme Court. It was said that he was responsible for the security lapse as he had met the leader of three banned organisations, Ahmed Ludhianvi in the capital’s Red Zone and had conceded to his demands. It is also said that Nisar ‘repeatedly and consistently’ resisted banning militant organisations of a specific sectarian bent. The opposition demanded resignation from Nisar due to this allegation.
Panama Papers case:
An inquiry was initiated against Nawaz Sharif, his children and some other relatives for money laundering by a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed by the Supreme Court in wake of the Panama Papers scandal. An international newspaper had published Panama papers naming Sharif’s sons as among people who created offshore companies. Nawaz Sharif was accused of using corruption money to increase his assets.
The JIT presented evidence that the Sharif family had furnished fake documents to them, including the use of Calibri font in documents dated before its public introduction. A ruling by the SC announced on July 28, 2017, disqualified Nawaz Sharif from holding public office for an undefined time. After disqualification, Nawaz Sharif went on to demonstrate his anger against the verdict in a vitriolic campaign and introduced a new term “Mujhay Kiyu Nikala” which gained immense popularity.
PM acting as the FM for four years:
In August 2017, PML-N leader Khawaja Asif was given the crucial Foreign Ministry after a lapse of about four years. Before Asif assumed this position, the portfolio was retained by Nawaz Sharif who ran affairs of the ministry through his adviser Sartaj Aziz– since he had come into power in May 2013. The absence of a full-fledged foreign minister was a subject of debate and criticism in and outside parliament given the enormity of the challenges faced by the country on the foreign policy front. However, the choice for the crucial foreign minister’s post had ignited an instant debate on social media with some questioning if Asif was a suitable candidate given his reputation of being an outspoken critic of the country’s powerful military establishment.
Faizabad sit in:
On November 6, 2017, workers of Tehreek-e-Labbaik and other religious groups camped at the Faizabad Interchange in Islamabad against the hastily-abandoned change in the Khatam-e-Nabuwwat oath of elected representatives, virtually paralysing the twin cities for more than two weeks. Police and Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel launched an operation against the protesters after the high court ordered the clearance of the bridge that connects the federal capital with Rawalpindi. The same day, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa advised Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to “handle the Islamabad dharna peacefully”.
The three-week-long sit-in at the Faizabad Interchange ended only after an agreement was signed between the government and protesters, in which the government conceded to most of the protesters’ demands, including that of removal of the then law minister Zahid Hamid. Maj Gen Faiz Hameed of the ISI had signed the agreement in the capacity of ‘guarantor’.
Accusations of treason:
On May 12, 2018, Nawaz Sharif gave an interview to a local media outlet in which he alleged that Pakistani authorities facilitated the Mumbai terrorist attack in 2008. Following this interview, there were widespread demands in the country to prosecute Nawaz for treason under Article 6 of the Constitution of Pakistan. A National Security Committee meeting was also called by the Pakistan Army which declared that Nawaz’s allegations were based on lies and misconception but no further action was taken against him despite nationwide condemnation of the attack.