The former three times prime minister and president-in-perpetuity of the eponymous faction of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) Nawaz Sharif has invited Marvi Sirmed of the Daily Times, Rauf Klasra of 92 TV, and Saleem Safi, Geo TV anchor/analyst, and Jang/The News, Islamabad columnist – they being among his favorite journalists, for a briefing after learning that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has recommended that his nephews Hamza Shehbaz and Salman Shehbaz should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL).
Both Hamza, who is the leader of the opposition in the Punjab Assembly, and Salman are facing an inquiry related to the construction of the Rs. 200 million bridge that benefits their family-owned Ramzan Sugar Mills.
The coffee table is laden with fruit and a wide selection of sweets, as Nawaz Sharif starts his talk, “First of all I must thank [Pakistan Peoples Party’s leader] Senator Raza Rabbani who said that one-sided accountability would not work. I also thank [PPP leader] Khursheed Shah for correctly describing [prime minister] Imran Khan as Hitler. I think in military language they call it scorched-earth policy. This is what Imran Khan is doing… you know what he has done to me and my daughter… Thank God my [sons] Hassan and Hussain are safe in London.
“You know, daily I am getting so many calls from our media community that they miss the time when I was in government. Like you, they too tell me they are missing the envelopes… and you know how Imran Khan is starving the media houses by stopping advertisements. A living democracy needs a vibrant media and how can we have any kind of media when the money is not there.
“On one hand, he is saying austerity, and now I saw somewhere that he is giving Rs. 50 million from his interior ministry to the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the alleged money laundering cases and fake accounts for their newly established Secretariat of the JIT in Karachi and for other operations. Plus, he has a supplementary grant of Rs.10 million, and another a supplementary grant of more than Rs.20 million is with the federal government. But he did not get that much from selling my buffaloes…
“And now you saw that Rs. 36 million were drawn from our dear Ishaq Dar’s bank account and given to some relief organization.
“Who else but Hitler did it?
“He is not even leaving children… today it is Hamza and Salman tomorrow it may be Bilawal and his sisters.
“They are even asking officials appointed by me in public sector companies to return excess amount they received as salaries. This is crueler than what Hitler did.
“Fine, he is angry with people, but what did buildings do to him… even wedding halls have been bulldozed. Leave aside the poor children who can’t get married when there is no wedding hall, but think of the poor builders who must have paid some good money to get building permits.
“Every Pakistani knows that I am innocent… the entire world knows that I am innocent. When the NAB court asked me about Al-Azizia steel mill, I told them that I never owned it and all the transactions connected to this steel mill could not be investigated by questioning me.
“Before they could question me further, I asked them that have they seen the advertisements for Las Vegas where the slogan says “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” similarly what happens in parliament stays there and they cannot ask me about my address to the parliament as a proof. And before the judge could say that the parliament is not Las Vegas, I told him that the whole thing is a gamble where you spend hundreds of millions and even if you get elected, you cannot say that you will recover that money because some people may not be able to get lucrative ministries
“Then the court asked me about the Qatari letter, I told them that I have no connection to that letter.
“I told the court that my boys, Hassan and Hussain cannot be presented before the court in this case. I told them the JIT never called them in my presence, so why are they asking me now. My children are innocent. Whatever their grandfather gave them, they just smiled.
“You know it that I am totally innocent. I will tell you truth, the only time I disagreed with my Abbaji [father] was when I was born. He was naming me Masoom [innocent], but even though I was newly-born, I put my foot down… you know, how I put my foot down and ordered the nuclear blast… I said no way that I will be named Masoom, I am Nawaz, which means kind, loving and generous, and all of you know how generous I was with the national exchequer. So I was telling you about my name. Because I had put my foot down, my father agreed with me but he told me that I am innocent and he will always call me Masoom in his heart. I am the Masoom because my father was actually naming me Masoom!”