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Sharif vows to give country new constitution

NAWAZ Sharif waves to supporters outside Data Darbar on Saturday.—Photo by M Arif/ White Star
NAWAZ Sharif waves to supporters outside Data Darbar on Saturday.—Photo by M Arif/ White Star

LAHORE: In order to do away with the existing system “plagued by virus”, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday vowed to give the country a new constitution.

“As long as the basic structure of this system does not change, Pakistan will continue to suffer. We will make sure that efforts to change the constitution begin right away,” he told a charged crowd outside Data Darbar, where his four-day homecoming journey from Islamabad by the GT Road ended.

Amid thunderous applause by his supporters, he thanked them for turning up in large numbers and on a scale which, he said, he had not witnessed in the past.

Ousted PM seeks public support to bring about revolution

His younger brother Shahbaz Sharif, the Punjab chief minister, made his first appearance in the four-day rallies at the destination and said that the former prime minister had been ousted not for corruption but for possessing an Iqama (work permit of the United Arab Emirates).

Embittered by his ouster on a Supreme Court order, Nawaz Sharif declared that the existing system had been ‘plagued by virus’ and he needed the support of the nation to replace it.

“Our party welcomes the suggestions of Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani for changing the constitution. It will fully support him to make a new constitution,” he said.

The Senate has decided to initiate an institutional dialogue among parliament, the military establishment and the judiciary to avert a collision between the institutions.

Nawaz Sharif said no prime minister in the country since 1947 had been allowed to complete their constitutional tenure but three dictators had ruled for three decades.

“Owing to such things Pakistan had an accident (dismemberment) in 1971. God forbid if we see such a situation again.”

Protest campaign

The sacked premier warned that he would not sit at home till he had changed the destiny of the country and ensured civilian supremacy.

“I am not afraid and I will not sit back home. I tell you.... There has been no judicial, economic and social justice in the country. We will bring a law that ensures dispensation of justice within 90 days unlike the previous one where a case is not decided in three generations,” he said.

Like his previous speeches, the former premier asked the people to pledge that they would come out with him on roads to bring about a revolution, indicating that he planned to announce a protest campaign in the coming days.

“Pledge to support me to bring about a revolution in Pakistan,” he asked the participants of the rally who responded in the affirmative.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader also said the people had not accepted the decision of his disqualification. “Those who disqualified me; are they qualified?” he asked and demanded accountability of all those who had sent packing the prime ministers in the past 70 years.

He also asked the Azad Kashmir premier, who has faced criticism over his reported remarks about Mr Sharif’s plight, to beware of getting disqualified.

He said the day was not far when India-held Kashmir would also be free and a part of Pakistan.

Earlier, Mr Sharif began the fourth leg of his Lahore-bound journey at midday after an overnight stopover in Gujranwala. He was warmly greeted en route on the GT Road, amid much song, dance and showering of flowers.

He addressed crowds in Muridke and Shahdara, before bringing up the finale in Lahore. The main procession was joined along the way by smaller but impressive tributaries led by prominent PML-N leaders.

In Muridke, Mr Sharif asked for popular endorsement for a revolution.

He repeated the argument that his ouster was an insult to an elected prime minister and those who had voted him in and said his dismissal by court had earned the country a bad name.

Pakistan and the world at large had rejected the decision, he claimed, and asserted that the ‘wicked joke’ being played on the country for the past seven decades needed to be stopped with full force. “The PML-N and I will get the sanctity of your vote and the country’s esteem restored,” he said.

“We are a sovereign nation and will never tolerate and accept insult at the hands of a few.”

In Shahdara, he said: “I got disqualified for not taking salary from son, [as] they said why Nawaz Sharif did not accept salary from his son.”

“Have you accepted Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification? Let me know the verdict of this court of Shahdara.” Then, he said, from Islamabad to Shahdara no-one had accepted this decision.

“I have not accepted the decision...”

The former prime minister said that if he had been guilty of corruption, the people would have ousted him on their own. “I would not have been able to face you had I been proven corrupt,” he said.

Mr Sharif said that as the prime minster he had worked hard to serve the people. He said motorways and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor were being built, Karachi was progressing, factories were working 24 hours a day and jobless youth were getting good jobs. “At this pace the menace of joblessness would have been eliminated in the next two to three years.”

Published in Dawn, August 13th, 2017