The senior leadership of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has put its weight behind the federal government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ahead of a planned long march by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Islamabad.

A meeting of the party leaders was chaired by PM Sharif wherein the participants termed the PTI’s plan of the long march a “conspiracy” against the state and decided that the government would crush its designs through the power of law, said a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s House.

“It will not be a political long march of PTI but a march for a conspiracy,” the PML-N leaders agreed as they gave full authority to Prime Minister Sharif to take appropriate measures to tackle the situation.

It was also agreed that the government will make an example of people involved in the alleged manipulation of the cipher. The meeting believed that recent leaks of purported informal conversations of Imran Khan had exposed a “deceitful narrative” of the PTI chief that the last government was sent home as a result of “an international conspiracy”.

The participants also urged PM Sharif to expedite the inquiry being conducted into the “cipher plot” and bring it to a logical conclusion.

Earlier, addressing a press conference in Islamabad, PM Sharif lashed out at the ex-PM and accused him of “treason against the state and the nation by spinning a deceitful narrative of conspiracy” against the ruling coalition and the state institutions.

“It was treason committed against the nation and not less than that,” the prime minister said while replying to a question about the conspiracy claims made by Mr Khan. In a comment on the leaked conversation between ex-PM Imran and his former principal secretary Azam Khan, the premier said the apparent use of the diplomatic cable by Mr Khan for political mileage had badly damaged Pakistan’s relations with friendly countries.

“The audio tells us everything. Is there any doubt as to who hatched the conspiracy… It was Imran Khan and his cronies,” he said adding that the coalition government was trying to revive the ties with other countries damaged by Imran Khan.

The PM also confirmed that the copy of the cipher had gone missing from the PM’s House and recalled that the National Security Committee, in its two meetings, made it clear that the cipher had nothing to do with the alleged conspiracy.

According to the prime minister, the recently leaked clips dented the trust of foreign diplomats in the cyber security of the PM’s House.

Speaking about the imminent long march by the PTI, Mr Sharif warned the PTI that no one will be allowed to get away with “unlawful action”. Responding to a question about possible hurdles in taking action against Imran Khan if he had become a “threat”, the premier said the federal cabinet had ordered an inquiry against the ex-PM for hatching a “plot” of “international conspiracy” using the cipher.

About the appointment of the next army chief, the prime minister said there were set criteria that would be followed in the appointment of the new chief.

He also appreciated the UN secretary-general for contesting the flood-hit Pakistan’s case and added that China had provided relief aid worth $90 million, and the US provided $61 million in addition to the support pouring in from the UAE, Qatar, Japan, and other states.

In a question regarding rumours about the governor’s rule in Punjab ahead of the long march, the premier said, “I will not say anything prematurely.” He reiterated that nobody would be allowed to take the law into their hands.

The premier also chided Imran Khan for his criticism of NAB amendments. He said that Imran Khan abolished the accountability commission in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after it pointed out corruption by the PTI ministers and also gave NRO to his sister Aleema Khan.

PM Sharif said the PTI government had introduced amendments to facilitate a 190 million pound scam, in which the cabinet’s consent was sought on an agenda in a closed envelope.

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