LAHORE: As the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) prepares to give a rousing welcome to ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz on their arrival in Lahore on Friday, the party supremo has pledged that he will liberate Pakistan from “those who are running a state above the state”.
PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif, on Wednesday, spent a busy day meeting workers in various areas of Lahore and mobilising them for the welcome rally planned at the Allama Iqbal International Airport to receive their leader, come what may.
Speaking at a party conference in the ballroom of the Grosvenor House Hotel in central London’s Mayfair district, Nawaz Sharif said, “Despite seeing the bars of prison in front of my eyes, I am going to Pakistan.” He said he was returning to the country so that he could pay back the Pakistani nation for what they had done for him: making him prime minister three times.
Shahbaz making arrangements for welcome rally for brother, niece at Lahore airport
Later while talking to journalists, the former premier said he wished he could address his supporters at the Lahore airport.
“I ask the people, especially women, to come out of their homes like tigers, and cross all barricades to reach the Lahore airport. No one can stop a mass gathering of the people,” he said, adding that no one had ever gotten freedom in a platter, because it demands sacrifice.
“Maryam and I are coming back to face prison and even if they send me to the gallows, we know that freedom cannot be won without sacrifice. It is not easy to leave my wife on a ventilator in a hospital but I am returning along with my daughter to play our role to rid of this slavery,” he announced.
Nawaz Sharif further said: “We used to hear about ‘a state within a state’ but now things have gone to the extent that there’s ‘a state above the state’. We will have to change this. July 25 will be a defining moment in the country’s history after August 14, 1947 (Independence Day),” he said, adding that Maryam and he would hear the election results in jail.
“The people’s verdict can change the 70-year-old course of the country and ensure their freedoms. The July 25 polls will be a referendum in which every Pakistani will have to decide whether they wanted to become a part of this dangerous game or make Pakistan the country Quaid-i-Azam had hoped it would be,” he said.
The former premier said “certain people” did not respect civilian supremacy. “They have been throwing out elected prime ministers for the last 70 years... Going by our history, a premier is sent to the gallows (Z.A. Bhutto), another is shot dead (Benazir Bhutto) and another (Nawaz) is forced into exile. What was their crime? Had they committed treason?” he asked. On the other hand, he said a military dictator (Gen Musharraf) who had abrogated the Constitution and sent judges behind bars was still free. No one had the courage to bring him back and try him for his misdeeds, he said.
The ex-premier said he respected the country’s institutions and greatly admired the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the country’s future. “But no one should be allowed to violate their oath,” he added.
Alleging that those working behind the scenes wanted to install a ‘government of their own choice’, he said: “To get the results of their choice in the election, they (‘hidden hands’) are suppressing the PML-N on all fronts. Today, apparently there is a democracy in Pakistan but it is being strangulated. The media is not free. The entire country has been turned into a big jail. The time has come to turn Pakistan into a civilised country, and for that to happen, the people will have to give a strong mandate to the PML-N in July 25 polls.”
The former premier warned that he could no longer hold ‘secrets’ in his heart. “I have shown great patience but I can no longer remain silent about those conspirators as it will be unfair for the coming generations. Those who were behind conspiracies against me and my government will be exposed,” he said. He asked who was behind his expulsion from the Prime Minister House, who had gotten a verdict of their choice against him, who had elected [Sadiq] Sanjrani as Senate chairman and imposed their will on the people of Pakistan in the election. Nawaz Sharif said he regretted the loss of his “close friends”.
“Pakistan has been placed on the Financial Action Task Force’s grey list (again). When I had talked about (taking certain measures) they termed it news leaks,” he said, and added that ever since his expulsion, the country’s economy had suffered a lot and Pakistani currency had been devalued.
Maryam said returning to Pakistan was the most difficult decision of their (Nawaz and Maryam) lives. “My mother is on a ventilator and it is not easy to leave her in this serious condition when we know that we are going to jail and may not see her soon,” she said. She regretted that in a bid to oust Nawaz, the country’s institutions had been weakened.
Speaking to workers at public meetings in Lahore, Shahbaz Sharif said on July 13, the people of Pakistan would give their verdict and come out in large numbers to give a historic welcome to Nawaz Sharif. He said Nawaz Sharif’s opponents suffered from the delusion that he would not return from London after the verdict in the Avenfield reference. “Nawaz Sharif rules the hearts of the people and that will become clear on July 13,” he said.
Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2018