Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi Image Credit: AFP

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi at a press conference in Islamabad on Monday said former premier Nawaz Sharif’s recent statement regarding the Mumbai attacks was “misquoted” by the media.

However, early on Monday Sharif stood by his statement.

The press meeting was held hours after a National Security Council (NSC) session was convened to discuss the controversial remarks of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif about the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which appeared in the Daily Dawn of 12th May 2018.

 I am not the first one to have accepted these facts [referring to his recent statement in an interview regarding role of Pakistan-based non-state actors in the Mumbai attacks]. I had asked a question. I need an answer.”

 - Nawaz Sharif | Former prime minister 

Abbasi claimed that the NSC did not condemn Nawaz, but incorrect reporting of the interview.

Nawaz, in a recent interview to Dawn newspaper, had said, “Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial?”

Monday morning was marked by confusion in Pakistan’s political circle because of conflicting remarks by government and ruling party PML-N’s leaders.

PM Abbasi explained that Sharif’s statement had been misrepresented by media and National Security Committee categorically termed the statement “incorrect and misleading” but at the same time Sharif defended his recent remarks.

 Nawaz should have mercy on the nation and take back his statement. His remarks were extremely irresponsible. The Pakistani state does not have any role in these attacks. Nawaz needs to be e briefed on the definitions of state and non-state actors.”

 - Rehman Malik | Former interior minister and Pakistan Peoples Party leader 

There were conflicting statements by Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz and his brother Shehbaz Sharif. Maryam, in her tweet, said that Sharif’s statement regarding Mumbai attacks was in the “best interest” of Pakistan.

Subsequently, his younger brother and PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif said “PMLN rejects all assertions, direct or implied, made in news report of Dawn” and the remarks of Nawaz Sharif “do not represent PMLN’s party policy.” In his tweet, he added that “There can and shall never be any compromise on any national interest. State of Pakistan and all its institutions stand together in the global fight against terrorism.”

“PM Abbasi’s press conference has created more confusion in which he claimed that Nawaz Sharif was misquoted by media whereas Mr Sharif early today himself reiterated his statement” said a leading Pakistani journalist, Hamid Mir.

Political analysts said the current situation was creating turmoil at a time when elections are only a couple of months away.

 The remarks in Dawn’s report, attributed to PML-N’s Quaid Nawaz Sharif in a wrong manner, are not representative of the party policy. We fully believe that the interests of Pakistan are on a priority higher than any personal and political ones.”

 - Shehbaz Sharif | Punjab chief minister of Punjab 

“PM Abbasi’s statement directly contradicts with the remarks of Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz. If we accept Abbasi’s explanation then Nawaz Sharif’s statement becomes irrelevant,” said Hasan Askari, a foreign policy analyst.

NSC terms Nawaz’s statement on Mumbai attacks as ‘incorrect and misleading’

On Monday, a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC), the country’s top civil-military body, reviewed the situation arising out of remarks of PML-N lifetime leader Nawaz Sharif and “unanimously termed this statement as incorrect and misleading.”

The statement issued after the 22nd NSC meeting held at Prime Minister’s House read: “It was very unfortunate that the opinion arising out of either misconceptions or grievances was being presented in disregard of concrete facts and realities. The participants unanimously rejected the allegations and condemned the fallacious assertions.”

The NSC meeting was attended by Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Zubair Mahmood Hayat, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Bajwa, Air Chief Mujahid Anwar Khan, Naval Chief Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi, ISI chief Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar and several other important officials.

Pakistan continues to await cooperation from India regarding the arrest of Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav and the Samjhota Express attack, the statement added.

Nawaz says ‘will speak truth’ without fearing consequences

On Monday, Pakistan’s disqualified prime minister Sharif defended his comment about the 2008 Mumbai attacks which stirred a controversy in Pakistan.

The three-time prime minister, while talking to reporters outside an accountability court in Islamabad, read excerpts from his interview and asked “What did I say that was wrong in the interview?”

Disowning the remarks from his own brother and PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif, Nawaz reiterated his stance. “Former president Pervez Musharraf, former interior minister Rehman Malik and former National Security Adviser Major-General (retd) Mehmood Durrani had already confirmed [what I said],” he added.