The federal government was considering suspending former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's sentence, revealed interior minister Rana Sanaullah during an exclusive interview to a private news channel.
In response to a question regarding the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz supremo, the interior minister stated on Saturday that reducing a sentence or suspending it entirely was within the purview of the federal government.
“An innocent man has been wrongly accused, he [Nawaz Sharif] should be granted the opportunity to plead his case before a court,” the minister said.
Sanaullah added that the PML-N chief should be involved in the next election campaign, while Maryam Nawaz would be in charge of leading it.
In 2019, Nawaz was allowed to leave the country by courts for medical treatment on the assurance that he would return to Pakistan as soon as he received the required treatment, to complete his ten-year jail term.
Read Govt issues ‘ordinary’ passport to Nawaz
However, since his departure from Pakistan, his medical condition for which Pakistani courts had accorded him an exceptional relief of allowing him to leave and travel to London for treatment, was seen by the then Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government as manipulated.
In his interview, Sanaullah also announced that the federal government was considering amending the Constitution to allow a presiding officer to administer oath to a chief minister or the prime minister, instead of leaving the duty at the behest of a governor.
The home minister stated that the powers vested in the office of the governor were remnants of colonial-era “servitude”, adding that it should be abolished to allow presiding officers to swear-in the elected heads.
The minister's remarks come in light of the deadlock witnessed in the Punjab Assembly after the election of Hamza Shehbaz to the post of chief minister.
Punjab Governor Omer Sarfraz Cheema refused the suggestions of Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti to administer oath to chief minister-elect Hamza Shahbaz.
The LHC chief justice had “suggested/advised/proposed” the governor to complete the process of administering the oath, either by himself or through his nominee. However, after deliberations with legal and constitutional experts, the governor decided not to accept the advice of the court of law.
After a long, drawn-out legal and political battle, Hamza was finally sworn-in as the Punjab chief minister – hours after Cheema dismissed former provincial chief executive Usman Buzdar’s resignation, saying it was "not constitutionally valid".
Responding to a query regarding the future of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Sanaullah stated that some members of the current government believed that “NAB should be wrapped up”. However, he added that some were of the belief that such an act would hurt the government politically.
Read more PM Shehbaz issues second summary for Punjab governor's removal
However, the minister stated that NAB Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal will not “survive” the government. “He neither should stay nor should we keep him,” Sanaullah added, explaining that the chairman had completed his tenure.
KU Confucius Institute attack
In response to a question regarding foreign interference in the University of Karachi suicide blast, Rana Sanaullah stated that the attack was “absolutely an effort to destabilise Pakistan.”
The minister added that the law enforcement agencies will be successful in “digging out” the networks involved in the tragedy.
“It is unfortunate that a well-educated family was involved in the attack,” the minister added, stating that it contradicted the perception that terrorism is borne of poverty or illiteracy.
The minister was referring to Shari Baloch, a female suicide bomber who was part of the outlawed Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), that claimed responsibility for the attack that killed four people including three Chinese nationals.