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GUJRANWALA/GUJRAT: Sacked premier Nawaz Sharif on the third day of his homeward journey vowed before a big welcoming crowd on Friday to fight back against a “conspiracy” hatched to hinder economic progress and infrastructural development in Pakistan.

“Some people did not like Pakistan’s progress [so they] ousted your elected prime minister on frivolous charges,” he told the mammoth rally along the GT Road in Gujranwala, historically a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) stronghold.

PML-N workers had started gathering on the GT Road earlier in the day and the crowd swelled to a huge size by the time Mr Sharif arrived in the city, at around 7pm.

Raging against “conspirators desecrating the sanctity of votes cast by 200 million Pakistanis”, Mr Sharif asked the crowd whether they supported the Supreme Court’s decision to oust him.

The highly-charged audience shouted, “No.”

Mr Sharif thanked the crowd for their unwavering support and announced that he would remember the rally in Gujranwala for the rest of his life.

“Those who gave the decision [to oust me] in court should see the decision of the masses, to whom Pakistan belongs.”

On July 28, a five-judge bench of the apex court declared Nawaz Sharif ‘not honest’ and disqualified him as a member of parliament.

Responding to the warm welcome and emotional slogans shouted by the crowd, which mostly comprised young people, Mr Sharif said, “Gujranwala I love you too”, and added that “they ousted me but could not remove me from the heart of people of Pakistan”.

Massive crowd welcomes ousted PM in Gujranwala

Asserting that he had done nothing to deserve being ousted, Mr Sharif said his unceremonious dismissal had been orchestrated because his government had overhauled the energy sector, built roads and provided infrastructure for industrial growth, and turned around the unemployment rate in the country. Above all, he added, Pakistan was becoming a peaceful country and the world was acknowledging that.

“I am not here to get myself restored as prime minister; instead, I have come to awaken you, [and urge you] to fight back and restore Pakistan’s esteem and secure the future of the younger generation of this country,” he said and asked people to unite and write a new history of the country.

Those who feared progress had exposed their agenda by holding sit-ins, he said. “They feared that Pakistan’s progress would bury their politics of agitation for good...I continued facing these conspirators in each of my three terms and could not complete my tenure — resulting in Pakistan’s poor economy and physical infrastructure.”

He also chided dictators for running the country into the ground for 30 years, while 18 prime ministers stayed in power for one-and-a-half years on average.

Child’s death

The former prime minister expressed sorrow over the death of a child killed in a road accident near Gujrat. Terming him the first martyr of his struggle against the forces opposed to Pakistan’s progress, Mr Sharif said the boy had come to see him. “I will personally go to his home and offer support to his family members for the rest of their lives,” he promised.

Before arriving in Gujranwala, the PML-N leader was accorded a warm welcome by PML-N’s Gujrat district president MPA Malik Hanif Awan in Sara-i-Alamgir.

Mr Sharif’s cavalcade was also given a rousing reception at Kharian and later in Lalamusa.

Ministers Khawaja Saad Rafique and Talal Chaudhary, Senators Pervez Rasheed, Asif Kirmani, Marvi Memon and other PML-N leaders had accompanied the party leader in the convoy.

Addressing a large public gathering in scorching heat at GTS Chowk in Gujrat, Mr Sharif said, “This is enough...the rule of ‘might is right’ will have to go and we will stand against this tyranny...Nawaz Sharif is ready to stand with the people of Pakistan against this system.”

He said had he not been removed from office, within the next two to three years there would not have been a single unemployed person in Pakistan.

“Why was I deseated? The judges themselves say that Nawaz Sharif has not committed corruption.”

Raging against the ‘conspirators’, he said, “They took your votes, ripped them up and returned them to you.”

He said this was the third time he had been sent packing from the office. “First a president removed me, then Pervez Musharraf, a dictator, removed me, and now the judiciary has removed me. Tell me, what should we do now? Should I sit at home? Or should I fight this injustice?” he asked his supporters.

The former prime minister asserted that his government had ensured uninterrupted power and gas supply in households across the country. “Today the tube-wells of farmers are working, the industries are running, agriculturists are in business, our cities have electricity and by next year, we will be in a position to bid load-shedding farewell forever.”

Mr Sharif later visited industrialist Amjad Farooq where he offered Friday prayers and ate lunch.

Earlier in the day, several local PML-N workers in Gujrat held a protest against the police and the local administration for allegedly sabotaging the procession by blocking roads leading to the venue of the rally. The police later reopened some routes to allow people into the venue.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2017