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ISLAMABAD: Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif comes out of an accountability court after appearing before it on Tuesday in connection with three corruption references filed against him.—INP
ISLAMABAD: Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif comes out of an accountability court after appearing before it on Tuesday in connection with three corruption references filed against him.—INP

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday regretted that while he had the right to appeal judicial decisions under the dictatorship of Gen Pervez Musharraf, he was being denied that right in the present democratic set-up, being run by the government of his own party.

Reading out a written speech at a crowded “press conference” at Punjab House, Mr Sharif once again targeted the judiciary, alleging that he had not been given the right to appeal because the same judges who handed down the verdict disqualifying him had heard the review petition, and they would be there again if he filed another appeal against the judgement of the accountability courts.

Mr Sharif, who had appeared before an accountability court earlier in the day, left the venue abruptly after finishing his written speech and did not field any questions from dozens of reporters who were eager to know more about the ruling party’s strategy going forward.

• Ex-PM regrets how he is being denied right to appeal under democratic set-up • Alleges SC judges used Iqama ‘because they had to disqualify’ him • Takes no questions at press conference

A number of senior reporters were surprised by Mr Sharif’s abrupt exit that denied them the chance to pose queries, questioning the logic behind arranging the press conference when the former PM could have easily issued a statement, or addressed the nation via the electronic media.

When contacted, PML-N information secretary Musha­hidullah Khan defended the decision to not take any questions, saying it was the party’s decision.

He said Mr Sharif’s statement was so comprehensive that there was no need for a Q&A session, adding that it was traditional for leaders around the world to not take questions when making policy statements.

During his speech, Mr Sharif was flanked by a number of senior party office-bearers and ministers. Estranged PML-N stalwart and former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan also sat close to Mr Sharif, seemingly dispelling all rumours about his differences with the party leadership.

In his remarks, Mr Sharif alleged that after finding nothing against him in the Panama Papers, the judges formed a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in a “suspicious manner”, alluding to the WhatsApp call controversy

“Then, the same judges announced the decision and asked NAB to file references. The same court then took control of NAB and the same bench will be hearing my last appeal, if it is filed,” he added.

After failing to prove any of the accusations, he alleged, they finally used the Iqama (work permit) “since they had to disqualify me”, he maintained.

He said that when legal experts did not accept the decision, how could he accept it.

“Is this how justice works? Is this what we call the rule of law? Does Article 10 [of the Constitution] say this — is this a fair trial?” he asked, rhetorically.

He pointed out that this was not the first time he had faced such hardships, having already endured accountability, jails and exile under a military dictator.

“I’ve endured similar treatment before. The difference is, that was a dictatorship but I still had the right of appeal. Today, under a democratic set-up, I have been deprived of that right,” he lamented.

“I will not let my family’s problems become my country’s problems. I am grateful to the party workers who have stood by us. If the PML-N is successful in 2018, we will not let the country change course.”

But Mr Sharif — who is often parodied by opponents for asking ‘Mujhe kyun nikala?’ (Why was I ousted?) at public rallies — said: “I know what my real crime is and I will continue to stand by my country,” without elaborating.

“Our history is full of bad decisions that are painful to recall. The time has come to cure this 70-year-old cancer”, he said, comparing the verdict in the Moulvi Tameezuddin case to the Panama Papers verdict.

“This is the first case where all weightage has been given to the petitioner, and the respondents have been laden with the burden of proof,” he added.

Mr Sharif claimed that the real verdict on his first appeal was given by the millions who greeted him during the GT Road rally, while his second appeal was answered by the people of NA-120 in the recently-held by-elections.

“Such decisions will keep coming and one big decision will come in 2018,” he said.

The former prime minister maintained that he had appeared before the NAB court and would continue to face the courts in accordance with the law and Constitution.

“My conscience is clean. I believe that God and the people of Pakistan are with me, and I hope that, somewhere, justice is still alive,” he said.

Mr Sharif also criticised the rivals for propagating the idea that he would not return to the country and claimed that he had left in an emergency due to his wife’s ailment, saying that the people in his inner circle knew all along that he would return.

He recalled that 10 years ago, he had made an attempt to return to the country on the same PIA flight, PK 786, but was not allowed to leave Islamabad airport.

Immediately after the presser, the former prime minister left for Lahore.

Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2017