ISLAMABAD, Aug 10: The PML-N has decided to keep on hitting out at Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan. In fact, there are chances these attacks will intensify in the coming days. The decision to this effect has been taken as a party policy after long deliberations among top party leaders, insiders revealed in background conversations.
The PML-N leaders had marathon sessions on the subject during the first week of the current month in Murree hills, where Nawaz Sharif was staying to escape the sweltering heat of summer down in Lahore.
Some in the party suggested they should avoid direct confrontation with Mr Khan, who regularly targets the Sharif brothers for their alleged corruption cases and personal misconduct, but “a majority vote in the party was for a tit-for-tat response,” said a senior PML-N leader who requested no to be named.
The argument which led to the decision to hit out at Mr Khan was that his relentless criticism of the PML-N leaders was seriously hurting the party’s cause and thus needed to be responded to in the same coin, said the Muslim League leader. “It’s the election year, therefore the party cannot afford to keep its eyes closed to accusations which the PTI leader is regularly hurling at the Sharif brothers.”
For example, Mr Khan frequently accuses the Sharif brothers of money laundering and by saying so he draws parallels between the PML-N leaders and President Asif Ali Zardari. At a recent press conference, the PTI leader also accused the PML-N leaders of being disloyal to their wives. In this age of 24/7 live TV coverage perceptions matter in the end, and the PML-N since 2008 has managed to remain a clean party by and large, a perception which “we don’t want to lose,” the PML-N office-bearer said.
When asked about the reason behind assigning the responsibility of launching the attack to senior leaders like Khawaja Asif, who recently held a press conference over the alleged money laundering by the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer hospital, he said people only paid attention to top leaders. Had a junior politician targeted Mr Khan less people would have paid attention, he said.
In the past, he pointed out, Leader of Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had been countering Mr Khan, but the party decided to involve other senior leaders against the PTI chief. At a press conference on Thursday, Chaudhry Nisar proposed a judicial commission or a panel of TV anchorpersons to settle the brewing war of words between the two parties.
“Tremendous amount of reaction which Khawaja Asif has been able to set off as a result of his August 1 press conference against financial mismanagement at the Shaukat Khanum cancer hospital justifies the party’s decision to pick him for the job,” the PML-N leader said, adding some of the mud slung at Mr Khan seemed to have struck him.
Another PML-N leader and an MNA confirmed deliberations which the opposition party leaders recently had to counteract the PTI factor.
“Yes, there is criticism on us as if the PML-N has become PTI-phobic. The issue is not that he is threatening us, but yes we fear he may turn out to be a spoiler in the end that needs to be checked forthwith,” the legislator said in reply to a question.