LAHORE - Prime Minister Mian Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday had four consecutive interactions with the journalists in Lahore at different levels in a day, but the one with the beat reporters was really a grapevine communication devoid of the usual formalities. Prime minister was visibly in a good mood and did not show any sign of exhaustion from the hectic schedule he had been following since morning. He talked about a host of issues but in a frank and candid manner not overwhelmed by the dictates of a formal style of a high-profile personality.
The prime minister was accompanied by Interior Minister Rana Sana Ullah, Federal Minister for law Azam Nazeer Tarar, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb and party’s additional secretary general Attaullah Tarar.
He would answer questions in a pleasant mood while chewing the food also offered to the journalists to satiate their evening snack cravings. He called the journalists sitting in front of him as companions of the bad times.
Shehbaz Sharif also recalled the days when he would appear before the court in connection with the cases instituted against him by the previous government. “I remember the days when chairs were removed from the courts [to make us stand].
Emboldened by the prime minister’s courtesy and humour, the journalist also asked some amusing questions. A journalist asked: How come you went to the prison again after a few days we brought you back? It was an indirect reference to the prime minister’s recent visit to Kot Lakhpat jail where he had spent a few months during his incarceration.
The premier responded with a broad smile and said: “I went to see my companions there with whom I had a good time. One should not forget the companions of bad times. In good times, everyone is with you; but if a a person speaks sweetly in difficult times, no one should forget him”.
He added that following his inspection of the jail, he had directed the provincial authorities to chalk out a plan for jail reforms.
To a question about increasing use of drugs in society and educational institutes, Shehbaz Sharif diverted the question to Interior Minister Rana Sana Ullah who sat close to him. “Rana Sanaullah is here to play a role in controlling drugs in the country. Who knows better than him to control the use of drugs”, the premier smilingly said in an indirect reference to the drug case instituted against Rana Sana Ullah by the last government.
Asked by a reporter as to how his government would cope with the existing challenges, the premier replied: “Will talk to you on this issue privately on some other day”. To another question about not repeating the old practices of seeking revenge, the prime minister replied in the affirmative saying: “Old Pakistan is back”. I have said many times that there is no revenge in Nawaz Sharif’s dictionary. Law will take its course, however. Illegal and unconstitutional acts will not be allowed under the law”.
To a question about next general elections, Shehbaz Sharif did not rule out the possibility of early elections but linked such a decision to be taken with the consensus of allied parties.
“The term of this government will end in August next year, but a decision about it will be taken in consultation with the coalition partners”. He said his government wanted to introduce election reforms before the general elections.
Asked if the present ruling alliance will go into the next elections together, the prime minister said his party wanted the allied parties to form an electoral alliance but a decision to this effect will be taken after evolving consensus. “We will try to form an alliance for the next elections and the PML-N will play its part in it”, he added.
To a question about extending service to the present army chief, the prime minister said a decision will be taken when the time comes. He also condemned efforts by certain quarters to drag the army into politics. “The army is an institution of 22 crore people which protects the borders. We should keep the army away from politics”, he said.
He has left no narrative that the nation will follow”. He said America was a superpower and wanted friendly relations with this country on an equal basis. “We are not anti-America. We should work with the United States on the basis of equality”. If we stand on our own two feet, other countries will be happy with it”.
He said he would try to mend relations with China which was a best friend.
“If the Corona situation in China improves, I will visit China to put the relations back on the track”. He said he would also try to revive the CEPAC which suffered a blow during the previous government.
To a question about Nawaz Sharif’s return, he said: Mian Nawaz Sharif’s case is with the courts, they will decide on it”.