LAHORE, Dec 22: Hoping to form his government in the centre and in provinces, PML-N President Nawaz Sharif on Saturday declared that elections would not be put off or subverted because people were desirous of bringing about a change through their votes.

Speaking at the 40th death anniversary of Khwaja Rafique here at Alhamra, he iterated there were talks of postponement or subversion of elections, and of conspiracies being hatched against them. But elections would be held as people were anxious to bring about a change through ballot. And they would further improve the country’s lot, he said.

“We will win the elections and form governments in the centre and in all provinces,” he said. He announced that he would meet exiled Baloch leader Akhtar Mengal who addressed the gathering by telephone from Dubai.

Mr Sharif warned President Zardari against stepping out of his constitutional role. Otherwise, he would make himself and the elections controversial.

Former Supreme Court Bar Association president Asma Jahangir, JI Secretary-General Liaquat Baloch, Khwaja Asif, Syed Ghous Ali Shah and Khwaja Saad Rafique also spoke.

Two resolutions were adopted; one sought creation of favourable conditions for elections in Balochistan, recovery of missing persons there, and permission to all Baloch stakeholders to contest the elections.

The second demanded immediate announcement of the general elections and preparation of electoral rolls in Karachi in the light of the Supreme Court directions.

It was stated that the first team of the anti-democracy forces (Imran Khan) had failed and the public meeting of the second (Tahirul Qadri) would also be flopped.

Nawaz Sharif said his party showed patience during the past five years but it also played an active role in correcting the country’s constitution. It would not have been possible to do so if the PML-N had stayed away from the assembly.

“We also played a role (along with the government) in giving the country an independent election commission. We, the people and the government do trust it. We also inserted in the constitution the provision under which a neutral and powerful caretaker government would be formed in the centre and in the provinces within three days of ending of the present setups to ensure free elections,” he said.

He recalled how his nomination papers and that of his brother Shahbaz Sharif were rejected in the 2008 elections, making one wonder as to who would become the prime minister or the chief minister if the PML-N won the polls.

The PML-N won in Punjab and made a noticeable presence in the centre despite such a treatment and the fact that all district nazims, the caretakers, the governors, the agencies and Gen Musharraf were against it.

“I am not a member of the National Assembly and we never complained of rigging which took place because we want to make a new beginning where there will be no one-man rule. We are saying no to the past happenings. We want to bring about a change as complaints of rigging in the past would serve no purpose. As to how would I serve the country if I do not prefer the larger interest (of democracy),” he said.

He said he had promoted the idea of continuation of democracy everywhere in the country during the past five years. Ten years ago no one could dare talk against the establishment or criticise the agencies. It was the PML-N which took the lead in opposing the rule of army generals because it was the need of the hour.

He said it was necessary to maintain sanctity of the ballot box without which the country could not overcome its problems. The PML-N leadership fought for this and accepted jails, handcuffs and exile as a result.

He said when he returned to the country he was sticking to the idea of supremacy of democracy. He resisted all attempts by Gen Musharraf to meet him in Jeddah. “Had I met him, there would have been an NRO for me. But I said I would prefer quitting politics to meeting him. That was why the general was against us and had had our papers rejected through a judiciary which was anti-Pakistan and without any conscience,” he recalled.

He said he and people had struggled for a principle (democracy) and not for seats or winning a game. The principle revolved around making democracy the style of governance in Pakistan, and not the bullet.

The country was created by the Quaid-i-Azam through a democratic way. But it was ruled by dictators who dismembered it in 1971. Unfortunately, those who talked of democracy were hanged, jailed, exiled or treated with bullets, he said, citing the example of Akbar Bugti.

But if the path of democracy was wrong then as to why the Quaid had opted for it. Why the Quaid accepted to head a political party and obtain the freedom through a legal battle. He could have chosen to take army soldiers with him and occupy the Viceroy’s House. He did not do so because he knew the futility of a wrong course, said the PML-N head.

Mr Sharif said depriving the country of politics through which it was created was like separating the soul from the body. It was the politics which created the country and which gave it the constitution that in turn ensured independent judiciary and allowed people to elect their governments.

In his telephonic address, Mr Mengal said the military governments crushed the Balochistan people who were still being killed and abducted. And still they were being expected to remain associated with Pakistan. He blamed the present political government for not stopping the persecution and asked as to who had sent Gen Musharraf off with full honour.

He said the rulers did not take a lesson from the Fall of Dhaka. All those who supported the military rules were guilty of committing unconstitutional crimes.

He asked the political leaders whether they would ask the Balochistan people to show patience or adopt their own course in case they would continue to be persecuted. He said he would come to Lahore provided the people of Punjab protested the recovery of missing people just as they do against power loadshedding.

Ms Asma Jahangir said the nation had become tired of bloodshed and it wanted to live in peace, wishing to give their children books and not guns. If politics was wrong, then they (the army) must also stop getting involved in it.

She said political leaders had let down the nation but they also suffered at the hands of dictators. The time had come to stand against those forces which wanted to bring about undemocratic governments, and to tell them that this country belonged to people and not to the generals.

The conditions in the country would continue to degenerate if its economy and law and order were not improved and the foreign policy was not changed.

She mentioned Gilgit-Baltistan where, she said, people were raising slogans of their independence. “We will have to talk of democracy in Azad Kashmir if we desire it for us. We will pray for Nawaz Sharif if he manages to help Azad Kashmir rid of the influence of Aabpara (Islamabad),” she said.She said Pakistan would never see peace if the foreign policy would continue to be handled by the generals. The political parties should resolve to frame the country’s economy-related foreign policy and to determine its future.

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