LAHORE: Although PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif has dismissed reports that he is not happy with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s ‘economic policies’, his close aides continue lashing out at his younger brother’s ‘economic wizard’ Miftah Ismail with his (Nawaz) blessing in order to ‘scapegoat’ the finance minister at an appropriate time.

On Friday, another party leader Hanif Abbasi joined the anti-Miftah camp, blaming the finance minister for spoiling the efforts of PM Sharif to revive the economy.

On Thursday, Abid Sher Ali, who is a relative of Nawaz Sharif, targeted Mr Ismail for what he called his “anti-people policies”. Mr Ali has remained in ‘self-imposed exile’ in the UK for three years.

Tallal Chaudhry, who accompanied Abid Sher Ali at the press conference in Faisalabad, also criticised the finance minister for his economic decisions.

PML-N supremo denies reports he is not happy with brother’s ‘economic policies’

Ousted prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf also entered the controversy, terming the ‘purported’ statement by Nawaz Sharif about his brother “an admission of incompetence” of the coalition government at the Centre.

Omar Sarfraz Cheema, former governor and adviser to Punjab Chief Minister Parvez Elahi, said the PML-N supreme leader had finally admitted the “incompetence and inefficiency of Shehbaz-League”.

“Shehbaz Sharif’s work can only be seen in advertisements. The coalition partners at the Centre are in fact ‘crime partners’. The nation has come to know the reality of their hypocrisy,” he said in a statement.

After a leading news channel aired Nawaz Sharif’s purported comments that he was not happy with the prime minister, the former, who has been in London since November 2019, chose to respond through his Twitter handle, saying: “The negative comments attributed to me about PM Shehbaz Sharif are misleading and incorrect. I remain hopeful that the sincere and tireless efforts by SS under the most challenging circumstances will bear fruit and he will steer the country out of the mess created by Imran Khan.”

Talking to Dawn on Friday, a couple of senior PML-N leaders admitted that the top party leadership was perturbed over not giving any substantial relief to the masses and as a result its popularity was declining and that of Imran Khan gaining.

“Apparently, Nawaz Sharif and his close aides’ statements appear to be damage-control measures in the face of soaring inflation and electricity prices. Nawaz wants to tell the people that he empathises with them and he is not with the coalition government in its decision to increase prices of petroleum products and electricity,” a PML-N leader from Punjab said.

He said this was a kind of an ‘old strategy’ but necessary in politics to keep the party’s vote bank intact. “However, several senior leaders in the party want Senator Ishaq Dar to return to the country and take over the finance ministry as he can better manage the economy being an experienced person,” he added.

The other leader said: “The systematic campaign by Nawaz Sharif and his aides against Miftah Ismail seems some serious thinking is under way in the PML-N [Nawaz] camp to scapegoat him (finance minister) at an appropriate time.”

He said as far as the Nawaz-Shehbaz relations were concerned there was absolutely no issue between them, adding that the coalition government was confident that by the time next general elections were due it would overcome inflation, stabilise the rupee and provide relief to the masses.

Over a week ago when the Shehbaz administration had increased the petrol price by Rs6 per litre, Nawaz Sharif and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari opposed the decision.

“The PPP is a part of the federal government, which should consult us on such important decisions,” Mr Zardari had said.

Nawaz Sharif had purportedly opposed the increase in oil prices and left a meeting in protest.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2022

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