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LAHORE: In a rare acknowledgment of former prime minister and PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s role in turning Pakistan nuclear, PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif on Monday said only the elected premiers had made the country’s defence invincible, while the military dictators compromised on its interest.

“For making Pakistan’s defence invincible we should give credit to those who had played their role in it. Z A Bhutto laid the foundation of nuclear tests as he was an elected prime minister, and I who was also an elected premier conducted the nuclear tests. This is not done by a military dictator. We were not like Musharraf who compromised on the country’s interest,” Mr Sharif said while speaking at the 20th anniversary of nuclear tests at the Alhamra Hall here.

It was for the first time Mr Sharif attended any event related to May 28 nuclear tests during the five-year tenure of PML-N government, apparently because elections are near and he is no more a premier.

The hall was full to its capacity and charged PML-N workers kept interrupting their Quaid’s speech by raising slogans, including their favourite, “Vote ko izzat do (give respect to the ballot)”.

Nawaz deplores ‘excesses’ being committed against him

Mr Sharif recalled how he rejected $5 billion offer made by then US president Bill Clinton and went ahead with nuclear tests in 1998. “I told him (Mr Clinton) that we could not compromise on our honour and rejected his offer. I told him it was our right to reply (to) India in the same manner. When we conducted the nuclear tests Mr Clinton said ‘you played with a straight bat’. I developed good relations with him and during the Kargil conflict he played a positive role. This is called diplomacy... in which one does his work and at the same time takes others along,” he said.

India’s attitude towards Pakistan changed after the latter conducted the nuclear tests, he said. “Would Mr Vajpayee come to Lahore, had we not conducted nuclear tests,” he asked.

Complaining about treatment being meted out to a three-time premier, Nawaz Sharif said: “Today which is the 20th anniversary of making this country a nuclear power it was my 75th appearance before the NAB court. Maryam and I were made to stand for hours in the court. I never sought a medal for conducting nuclear tests. But it is unfortunate that I was ousted on a small issue of Iqama (work permit)”.

Asking the people to vote for the PML-N in July 25 polls, Mr Sharif alleged excesses were being committed against him and his party despite overcoming loadshedding and terrorism and bringing CPEC to the country.

“Even I was being called a traitor. You have the power to end these excesses through vote,” he said, adding the voters should change what had been going on in the country.

“Give us mandate and we will make the country an economic power after we made it an atomic power,” Sharif said.

Maryam Nawaz claimed her father had a choice to leave the country to avoid NAB cases. “But he (Nawaz) chose to come out for the rights of his people. I ask you to support the cause of my father,” she said.

Appeared to be hurt by defections, she also urged the voters to reject the “turncoats” in the coming elections.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed said he had advised Nawaz Sharif to go ahead with nuclear tests in 1998.

“Mian sahib sought my suggestion first and I told him to go for nuclear tests,” he said.

Railways Minister Khwaja Saad Rafique said from Bhutto to Nawaz every ruler contributed to make the country a nuclear power. He also acknowledged role of scientists and the armed forces in making the country a nuclear power.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2018