Pakistan army denies 'deal' with ex-PM Nawaz Sharif

By Aamir Latif

KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – Pakistan's powerful army on Tuesday denied it had reached an agreement with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted and jailed in a corruption scandal.

Rana Mashood, a former minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, in a television interview claimed that issues with the "establishment" — a term coined to denote the army — had been sorted out and that his party will form a government in Punjab province, the country's political power base, in the coming weeks.

"Attribution of an obvious vested statement by Rana Mashhood is baseless and regrettable. Such irresponsible expressions are detrimental to stability in the country," army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said in a tweet.

The rare denial to a political statement led to speculations by analysts and experts.

Mashood later said that he had been quoted out of context, but insisted that a change of government in Punjab was likely.

His party distanced itself from the statement.

Party spokeswoman Marriyum Aurangzeb said: "Rana Mashhood's statement has nothing to do with the PML-N or its leadership."

The opposition in the country alleges that the general elections in July were tilted in favor of Prime Minister Imran Khan, with Sharif embroiled and jailed in a corruption case. Some go as far as to say Khan was selected by the army to lead the country.

Sharif was released from jail last month after a high court suspended his sentence in a case related to the purchase of four upmarket London apartments.

Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party forms the government in Punjab currently with the help of smaller coalition partners, even though PML-N emerged as the single largest party in the election.