ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has called for “putting our house in order”, rising above self-deception and understanding why the world had such a negative perception about Pakistan.
A visibly confident Mr Sharif also declared on Wednesday that he had won the NA-120 referendum against arch-rival Imran Khan as well as the Supreme Court bench which disqualified him and vowed that the outcome would be the same, come the next elections.
Many expected the former PM, who arrived in the capital after a mysterious trip to Saudi Arabia, to reject reports that he and his brother Shahbaz had travelled to Riyadh to negotiate some sort of safe exit.
However, during his press conference at the Punjab House, the former PM did not touch on the subject at all and ended the press conference without taking any questions.
“There is a need to examine our character and actions with sincerity,” he stressed, adding that as a three-time prime minister, he knew many facts. He said that he had called attention towards this issue several times, but claimed that his advice had not only been ignored, but questions were raised on his patriotism over a news report leak, and other issues.
Declares victory in NA-120 ‘referendum’ against Imran, SC; blames rumour-mongers for damaging Islamabad’s ties with Riyadh
“We need to understand why our narrative is dismissed. If it is ignored and termed as being against the national interest, this will be nothing but self-deception … which has already led to the fragmentation of Pakistan once before,” he said.
Deploring the non-serious tweet by US President Donald Trump, he noted that no head of the state should ignore recognised international and diplomatic norms when addressing another state.
Pakistan had paid the heaviest price in the war on terror ever since 9/11, he said, adding that the country was entrenched in a war that was not its own.
At the moment, he said, there was no dictator who would completely surrender on a phone call or threat. “Ours is a government elected by the people and it will not succumb to threats,” he remarked, a snide reference to the way Gen Musharraf reportedly agreed to join the war on terror after being asked whether he was ‘with us or against us’ by the US.
Had there been a democratic government in the country in the year 2001, it would never have “sold its soul” or compromised its self-esteem.
He advised President Trump to avoid taunting Pakistan over aid, saying that the amounts provided under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) were essentially reimbursements and should not be considered charity. He called on Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to devise a strategy that ended the country’s reliance on American assistance, so that no one could attack the country’s dignity.
Pointing out that 2018 was an election year, Mr Sharif lamented that the country’s electoral history was not a bright one. “The results of the first parliamentary elections, held 23 years after Pakistan’s formation, were not accepted.”
He recalled that Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had held that public opinion was never wrong, regretted that the principle being followed in Pakistan for the past 70 years was that public opinion was always wrong.
In a veiled reference to the doctrine of necessity, he claimed obsolete principles of the past were being dug up once again to block the path of one party and pave the way for a blue-eyed faction. Incidentally, the PML-N has recently begun using the term ladla, or blue-eyed, to refer to arch-rival Imran Khan.
Warning against ‘chaining’ certain political actors through ineligibility, phone calls, secret contacts and ‘illegal decisions’, Mr Sharif said democracy should be allowed to flourish in its original form.
He maintained that those rejected by the people through the ballot should not be promoted or sired, adding that the people of Pakistan were sane and should be allowed to give a verdict.
“The sanctity of ballot should not be trampled,” he remarked, saying that he would lay bare all the facts about how the upcoming general elections were being engineered, if behind-the-scenes activities did not end.
Earlier, speaking to mediapersons after his court appearance in connection with the three separate reference instituted against him, Mr Sharif recalled that Imran Khan had termed the NA-120 by-elections a referendum against the verdict of the five-member Supreme Court bench.
“Imran Khan, you and the bench who passed a verdict against me both lost that referendum, and the truth prevailed,” Mr Sharif said.
He also took exception to a recent visit by the chief justice to Mayo Hospital, and his remarks on governance-related issues, saying this was a “deviation from his judicial functions”.
He criticized the judiciary for its double standards; saying that while he was ousted on the basis of a mere Iqama, or work permit, those who confessed to his crime and openly utilised a tax amnesty scheme had been declared sadiq and ameen.
When asked about Imran Khan being granted bail by an anti-terrorism court, Mr Sharif termed it ‘a big game’, saying that this was all a part of a strategy. “It is not justice when you beat someone after tying their hands, but award a clean chit to another who openly confesses his crimes,” he said, saying that this was not 1958, 1977 nor 1999, and the people of the country are well aware of the facts.
Responding to the questions about his recent trip to the Middle East, Mr Sharif said that Saudi Arabia is a brotherly country.
“My trip to Saudi Arabia was not out of the blue and I am astonished at the kind of rumours being spread here in Pakistan. The people who spread these rumours, they aren’t harming me, but the long-standing brotherly relations between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.”
NAB court proceedings
During Wednesday’s proceedings , the accountability court recorded the statements of three prosecution witnesses.
Yasir Chaudhry, the operations manager of the Muslim Commercial Bank’s (MCB) Garden Town branch, recorded his statement in the Al-Azizia/Hill Metal Establishment corruption reference and provided details of the bank accounts of Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz. At the last hearing, Mr Sharif’s counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed had said that the witness should have produced the complete record on the basis of which entries were made in the bank statements.
During cross-examination, the witness admitted that Nawaz Sharif received money from his agricultural income, as well as funds from Chaudhry Sugar Mills. In September 2014, Mr Sharif also deposited money into the account of his mother.
Another prosecution witness, retired Inland Revenue Service official Mohammad Tasleem Khan also recorded his statement in the Flagship corruption reference.
He told the court that before his retirement on Oct 9, 2017, an IRS commissioner directed him to go to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) office in Islamabad, where he and another officer submitted details of Nawaz, Hussain and Hassan’s income tax returns, wealth tax returns and wealth statements to the NAB investigation officers.
The court then adjourned further proceedings until January 9.
Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2018