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SAHIWAL: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif says his party will be competing against “hidden forces” in the coming general elections and not against former president Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

“Our competition is with those forces that are not visible on the ground, but everybody knows about them. If someone votes for Imran, Zardari or independent candidates he will actually be voting for those forces,” he told a responsive crowd at a big public meeting at the Shaikh Zafar Ali Stadium here on Tuesday.

“These forces have damaged Pakistan during the past 70 years. Enough is enough. Now we have to change Pakistan by giving respect to the vote and people’s mandate. The PML-N will restore people’s mandate,” he said.

Ridiculing the PTI leader, Mr Sharif said: “Imran Khan is a stooge who dances to the tunes of hidden forces.”

Criticising the PTI’s April 29 Lahore show, the ousted prime minister said if the crowd had to be brought from Peshawar, then why a gathering had not been arranged there. “It is really funny that the public meeting was in Lahore but people had been brought from Peshawar to advance the agenda of someone else. Khan failed in the last election and he will be defeated again because he has become a stooge.”

He said the 2018 elections would draw a line between those who accepted dictation and “took orders from the top and those who refused to take orders from the top”.

Referring to NAB and superior court’s decisions, Mr Sharif said they (courts) were not satisfied with one decision (in the Panama case). “One after the other, decisions are coming against the Sharif family.”

He said he knew the media was under pressure. “I strongly condemn such forces which are pressurising the media. I know from where orders are coming to pressurise the media,” he said, asking people to shun politics of those who were “tools in the hands of others”.

Earlier, Maryam Nawaz said Mr Khan was “in politics like a cameo. This cameo will not be in politics after the 2018 election”.

She said both “Imran and Zardari Sahib” did not deserve votes because they were standing with those forces which had “manoeuvred Nawaz Sharif’s ouster”.

Ms Maryam said she and her father had appeared before courts for 70 times and so far the prosecution had failed to prove any corruption charge against them.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2018