ISLAMABAD - PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif said on Thursday that he will try to soften former prime minister Nawaz Sharif as party lawmakers expressed concerns over his sibling’s controversial statement on the 2008 Mumbai attacks which has evoked a strong response.

Chairing a parliamentary meeting of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz here, the younger Sharif was quoted by the participants as saying that whoever arranged Sharif’s interview with a national daily was in fact his ‘biggest enemy’.

The meeting was attended, among others, by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal. Former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan did not attend the meeting despite being around.

PM Abbasi had chaired a similar meeting of the party lawmakers as Sharif’s controversial statement continued to make headlines, bringing unprecedented pressure to all the cadres of PML-N.

Participants of the meeting told The Nation that several lawmakers raised questions about Nawaz Sharif’s statement while Shehbaz and PM Abbasi tried to placate them. Some lawmakers said they were finding it hard to defend Sharif’s statement when they address rallies or meet their voters.

According to sources, questions were also raised on the absence of Nisar in the meeting.

The lawmakers raised certain concerns and points pertaining to an interview over the weekend in which Sharif stated that non-state actors hailing from Pakistan were “allowed” by the country to go and stage attacks in Mumbai.

Nawaz Sharif had said: “Militant organisations are active [in Pakistan]. 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?”

The PML-N lawmakers also called to form a clear-cut party policy to ensure it did not clash with the ideology of Pakistan and the party.

Shehbaz – who is also the Punjab chief minister – assured the participants that Sharif’s interview was taken out of context.

Meanwhile, an accountability court handed over questionnaire regarding Avenfield reference to Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Mohammed Safdar.

The proceedings of London flats reference have entered a final phase as the accused have been directed to appear in the court on Friday [today] to record their statements under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The other two accused, Husain and Hassan Nawaz have been declared absconders.

The hearing of Al-Azizia reference was adjourned until Monday after Sharif’s counsel started cross-examination of head of Joint Investigation Team Wajid Zia.

The Supreme Court had disqualified Sharif from office in July over unreported sources of annual income of about $10,000, a salary the former premier denies ever received. The court also ordered the NAB to investigate and conduct a trial of the Sharif family’s wider finances, including the London properties.

Sharif was also ousted from the presidency of the ruling PML-N, which elected his close ally Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as prime minister after Sharif’s disqualification.

Addressing the party meeting, Shehbaz said the PML-N completed all its promises and ushered in an era of development in its tenure. He said that the party will take its achievements to the electorate during the campaigning for the upcoming general election.