| Saturday, February 14, 2009
By Tariq Butt
ISLAMABAD: Senior politician Makhdoom Javed Hashmi is out of high-level consultations in the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) on key national and internal party issues, insiders revealed here on Friday.
“For quite some time, Hashmi has been kept at a visible distance by the Sharif brothers,” one PML-N leader told The News on condition of anonymity. However, Pervez Rashid, PML-N spokesman and adviser to the Punjab chief minister, insisted it was incorrect to say that Hashmi had been marginalised within the party.
“Hashmi is always accorded much importance in high-level party consultations and Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif have immense respect for him,” he said. “Hashmi is treated as a senior party leader.”
Another PML-N leader was of the view that Hashmi was sidelined as he was trying to have a larger-than-life image in the party after the Sharifs’ return to Pakistan from exile. Because of his four-year imprisonment for standing by the party, the source said Hashmi hoped to have a say in the PML-N affairs — whether these pertained to internal matters or talks with the ruling coalition.
Kept out of the loop, the outspoken politician had become disenchanted, the source added. Particularly, Hashmi’s “solo flights” on some issues, including his unilateral announcement to contest the presidential election, embarrassing the party, displeased the Sharif brothers, who thus decided to keep him at an arm’s length.
They became further estranged when Hashmi, addressing a function in Lahore, demanded that Nawaz Sharif, President Asif Ali Zardari and all others should bring back their wealth, stashed abroad, the insider disclosed.
He said the top leadership was unhappy with Hashmi for pursuing an “independent, at times conflicting” policy on matters where the PML-N had no ambiguity. For example, he explained, Hashmi had refused to take oath as federal minister from Pervez Musharraf when nine of his colleagues — all leading and committed figures of the PML-N — were sworn in by the former dictator.
However, despite having a “nonchalant” attitude towards Hashmi, the PML-N leadership has not totally abandoned him, another PML-N leader said. Hashmi’s frustration with the party further grew after the PML-N did not pick him up as the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly.
Instead, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who too had suffered a lot during Musharraf’s rule, was not only chosen for this office but was also made chairman of the powerful Public Accounts Committee on PML-N’s recommendation.
The Sharif brothers used to have exceptional confidence in Hashmi’s courage and steadfastness as the day they went into exile on December 10, 2000, they elevated him as the acting president of the party.
The decision had thoroughly disappointed Raja Zafarul Haq because he expected the top slot. In their absence from Pakistan, Sharifs wanted an aggressive man, not a soft-spoken person like Zafarul Haq, to lead the party.
Hashmi measured up to Sharifs’ expectations as he put up a heroic fight against Musharraf’s rule. Inside the National Assembly, he remained extremely aggressive and attacked Musharraf all too often. Finally, he was jailed for distributing a pamphlet and turned out to be among the leading victims of that era. (The News)