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JHELUM: Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif addresses the crowd from a makeshift stage behind bulletproof glass on Thursday.—AP
JHELUM: Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif addresses the crowd from a makeshift stage behind bulletproof glass on Thursday.—AP

• Accuses judiciary of legitimising dictators
• Says he has no desire to become PM again
• Hurries to Jhelum after a slow start; will head to Gujrat today

GUJAR KHAN/JHELUM: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday took aim at the judges who had disqualified him and reminded the people that only those who voted him into power could remove him.

Continuing his journey to Lahore via Grand Trunk (GT) Road on Thursday, he said he was bringing the case of his disqualification — tantamount to disqualifying the 200 million people of Pakistan — before the people of Pakistan.

Soon after Mr Sharif’s caravan set off from Rawalpindi, the procession was met with a thin crowd in Mandra and Gujar Khan. The prime minister only briefly spoke to supporters there and the cavalcade sped towards the Sohawa junction without further ado.

There, addressing a large gathering of supporters and party workers who lined both sides of the GT Road, the ousted prime minister asked his supporters whether they agreed with the Supreme Court’s decision to send him packing. In his harshest criticism of the judiciary since his ouster on July 28, Mr Sharif said: “I became the prime minister of Pakistan through votes, whereas five honourable judges sent me home. Only those who vote politicians into power have the right to depose them.”

The rally stopped at various small towns before arriving in Jhelum city. At Dina, where Mr Sharif was greeted by a larger crowd than the one at Sohawa, he said the people’s mandate had been mocked for 70 years, but that would have to change.

Mr Sharif’s cavalcade entered Jhelum around 5pm and stopped at Jada Chowk, where a large crowd of supporters greeted the ousted prime minister. “No prime minister has ever been allowed to complete tenure in the history of the country,” Mr Sharif said, adding that it was an insult to the people of Pakistan.

“Are you okay with being insulted like this?” he roared, as the crowd responded with a resounding: “No”.

Apparently addressing the judges who had disqualified him, Mr Sharif bellowed: “How will you answer your God? What answer will you give this nation? The people want answers to all these questions.”

He also claimed that dictators broke the law and the Constitution, but it was the judges who accorded them legitimacy.

“The people will demand answers from all the dictators and the people who have not allowed this country to function,” he said.

Addressing his supporters, he asked: “Tell me, will you hold them accountable? Will you help take this country forward?”

The people of Pakistan would have to change the way the country was being run, he said. “You will have to change it. If Pakistan is to progress, if the future of our youth is dear to us... we will have to change everything.”

He announced that he did not intend to run for prime minister again. “My self-respect is very dear to me. I have no intention of coming to power again, but I do want to do something about your future.”

The former prime minister said the country was mired in darkness when his government took charge. He said the government had brought peace back to Karachi and stability to Balochistan.

“My government is gone now... five judges sent me packing in one minute, even though I had the votes of millions of people. Is this not an insult to the millions who voted for me?”

He reiterated that the courts had been unable to convict him of corruption. “You should ask why they removed your leader,” he said. “The people of this country and the people of Jhelum should ask why they did this.”

Mr Sharif then claimed that he might have been removed because he had managed to secure the country’s future through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project and end loadshedding. He said he had been trying to secure the future of the youth of Pakistan, and urged them not to lose heart. “Together, we can do something about this state of affairs.”

The procession halted at a hotel, located on the banks of the River Jhelum, where Mr Sharif stayed the night before heading to Gujrat. According to his schedule, he is supposed to head to GTS Chowk in Gujrat at around 10am, where MPA Hanif Awan is expected to organise his reception.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2017