Pakistan's top civil and military leadership today
condemned ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif's "fallacious" statement that non-state actors had crossed the border to carry out the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, indicating widening rift between the top PML-N leader and the powerful military.
Sharif, the three-time prime minister who was forced to quit after the Supreme Court disqualified him in the Panama Papers scandal July last, in an interview last week questioned Pakistan's policy to allow the non-state actors to cross the border and "kill" people in Mumbai as he publicly acknowledged that militant groups are active in the country.
His comments triggered a controversy, prompting the National Security Committee (NSC) - Pakistan's top civil-military body - to call a high-level meeting.
"The meeting reviewed the recent statement in the context of Mumbai attacks...and unanimously termed this statement as incorrect and misleading," said a statement issued after the NSC meeting held at Prime Minister's House.
"The participants observed that 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," it said.
The statement said that it was recalled during the meeting that the delay in conclusion of the Mumbai attack case was caused by India, not Pakistan.
"Besides many other refusals during the investigation, the denial of access to the principal accused, Ajmal Kasab, and his extraordinarily hurried execution became the core impediment in the finalisation of the trial," it did.
Ten Lashkar-e-Taiba militants killed 166 people and wounded dozens in Mumbai in November, 2008. Nine of the attackers were killed by police while lone survivor Ajmal Kasab was caught and executed after a court found him guilty.
Presided over by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the meeting was attended by top Cabinet ministers, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Zubair Hayat, the three services chiefs, the director generals of Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence.
After the meeting, Prime Minister Abbasi met Sharif and conveyed to him the concerns of the military leadership over his remarks regarding the Mumbai attacks.
During the meeting, Sharif reiterated his stance and questioned if anyone could explain what was wrong with his comments. He wondered why a brouhaha was being created over his remarks when similar admissions have been made in the past by others, the DawnNewsTV reported citing its sources.
Later, Abbasi expressed full support for Sharif and said the former prime minister did not say what was reported in the media about the Mumbai attack.
"A few sentences (from the interview) were blown out of proportion and context. I have clarified those (statements)," Abbasi asserted while talking to senior journalists.
Stating that the NSC dismissed those words which were misreported, he said the meeting did not condemn Sharif but incorrect reporting of his interview.
"Indian media is giving the issue a different hue, and we should not be a part of it," Abbasi said.
He also said that there was no tension between the civil and military leadership. He said misunderstandings are removed in the light of the facts.
Abbasi said no one forced him to talk to the media and it was his own decision to give the explanatory statement.
Meanwhile, addressing a rally in Buner area of Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa province Sharif demanded a national commission to determine who was a traitor.
"If my statement doesn't sit well with someone, and if I am actually a traitor then let us have a national commission. Let us start the process of accountability and those who call me traitor should also be held accountable. Pakistan's 220 million people should witness (the trial) and the guilty should be publicly hanged," a defiant Sharif said, unfazed by the barrage of criticism over his remarks.
He said those imposes martial were patriotic and those who worked day and night for development of the country were traitors, in a direct reference to the powerful military generals.
The powerful army, which enjoys considerable influence over policy decisions in Pakistan, has ruled the country for much of its life since it gained independence 70 years ago.
Sharif's statement was defended by Punjab Law Minister and a vocal party leader, Rana Sanaullah, who asserted Sharif said nothing new in his interview.
What Sharif said is already there in the investigation by Federal Investigation Agency, he said.
Earlier today, Sharif dispelled the notion that the comments were falsely attributed to him, saying that he will speak the truth come what may.
When a reporter pointed to Sharif's acknowledgment of the presence of "non-state actors" in the country, his daughter Maryam, who was accompanying him, replied: "So then who was Zarb-i-Azb [military operation] conducted against?"
Operation Zarb-e-Azb was a military offensive conducted by the Pakistan Armed Forces against various militant groups in 2014.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)