Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) senior leader Khawaja Asif has said that although former premier Nawaz Sharif’s homecoming has been delayed until October, party president Shehbaz Sharif and stalwart Ishaq Dar should return to the country immediately amid growing public anger over the rising cost of living and runaway inflation.
"There is no doubt there are countless [causes of unrest] for the people, and there is only one solution to this. We must constantly stay in touch with the people, so they can see us," Asif said, adding that keeping a distance from people was not a solution.
The former defence minister's remarks came while speaking to a private news channel.
During the show, he said that even if Nawaz delays his return to Pakistan in October owing to the fact that no election dates had been announced, the former premier and former finance minister should return immediately to address the criticism that the party has been facing for its decisions during its term in power.
He said that PML-N Senior Vice President Maryam Nawaz was in constant contact with the people.
"All of us MNAs are sitting in our constituencies," he added.
The former defence minister, however, said that he owned the party's decision given the state of the economy and the country when the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) began its term.
He said that the PML-N was part of the PDM coalition government and therefore whole responsibility for the decisions did not lie with the party.
However, he added, we take responsibility as a member of the cabinet. Asif said that the PML-N leadership could not handle the situation in the way they were expecting. He said when Ishaq Dar returned, they had no idea that such a disaster was lying ahead.
Asif also claimed his party knew how to address the different problems facing the nation but could not deliver in the last 16 months.
He said: "We know where and who is stealing electricity," adding that the largest chunk of power theft takes place in markets.
He further asserted that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) governments in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa resisted closing down markets early in the evening to save electricity, adding that his party had ensured uninterrupted power when there was 18-hour-long load shedding in 2013 and brought terrorism under control.
He said the PDM coalition formed the government in the wake of the success of the no-trust motion against the PTI government and at that time holding elections was a better idea.
However, the coalition members did not agree to the PML-N’s proposal and formed a government instead.
Regarding the sugar crisis and the ensuing blame game between the PPP and the PML-N, the former defence minister said the decision to export sugar may have been made by the Minister for Commerce but it was approved by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) and later the cabinet.
He said that it was on record that PPP Co-Chairman Asif Zardari at that time was insisting that we would earn a billion dollars by exporting sugar stocks.
He said there is nothing wrong if PPP’s Faisal Karim Kundi wants Bilawal Bhutto as the next prime minister.
This is the election year and it is their right to pursue their aspirations, Asif said.