PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif on Thursday hit out at the PTI government for failing to control inflation and poverty, saying once again that his party's struggle was not against Prime Minister Imran Khan but "those who stole the election" and allegedly brought him into power.
Addressing a meeting of the PML-N's Central Working Committee (CWC) via video link, the former prime minister said he was "pained" to see the existing state of affairs in the country, adding that the poor were today unable to afford food and send their children to school.
"Is this what the 'state of Madina' looks like?" he questioned, adding that the PTI government had failed to fulfil its "tall promises".
"You have destroyed Pakistan in every field," he said while addressing the government, and asked where the 10 million jobs were that it had promised to the people.
"Where are the people who brought you into power? They should answer to the nation as well."
He reiterated that the opposition's fight was not against Prime Minister Imran. "We don't give any importance to him. He is a selected prime minister which you have imposed upon this country."
In a mocking reference to Imran, he said: "Those who brought this gift to us should answer ... why did they steal the election and mandate of the Pakistani people?"
Nawaz said he could no longer remain silent considering the state of affairs.
"And no one should try to shut me up. Because I won't," he added, amid applause and cheers from party workers.
In a tweet, Nawaz's daughter Maryam said he was "fighting the case of [the] people of Pakistan".
"It is clear that he will take it to the end. He won’t spare anyone who is part of the nexus nor will he mince his words."
Nawaz told party workers that he will "not let [them] down" and will remain "steadfast" on his ideology, saying he was not worried about the consequences.
He alleged that the PTI government was "brought into power" through rigging on election day and by breaking away the votes of smaller parties and independent lawmakers. He said Imran Khan became the prime minister by a majority of "only four votes".
"Who were the people of the tractor [election symbol]?" he asked, before answering himself: "These were the people who brought the [PTI] into power."
Referring to the remarks given by an Islamabad High Court judge on Wednesday that Nawaz had went abroad after "defeating the system", Nawaz asked whether he could expect justice in his case after such comments.
"And what justice did we get before? Why was that colonel visiting the court of [accountability judge] Mohammad Bashir again and again?" he questioned, without naming the person.
He also asked why the verdict against him in the Al-Azizia reference had remained intact even though the judge that issued it, Arshad Malik, had been dismissed.
Nawaz said his brother PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif was arrested "without being heard", while Prime Minister Imran had refused to accept the resignation of retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa who he alleged had "amassed assets worth billions in the United States".
He further alleged that an "unknown" person was enabled to become the Senate chairman after "sabotaging" the elections for the upper house, saying this happened after the PML-N government in Balochistan was "brought down" when Asim Bajwa was the Corps Commander there.
"Should we let all of this pass? All we goats and sheep who will go wherever you want us to?" he asked.
'Salute soldiers who obey the Constitution'
Nawaz paid tribute to the soldiers who lay their lives in the defence of the country but he said "I do not salute the solider who climbs the Prime Minister Office's gates to arrest the sitting prime minister."
He further said he has "no respect" for the people who amass foreign assets and steal the people's mandate.
He then read out the oath taken by armed forces after being recruited, saying he honours the personnel who comply with the oath and obey the Constitution.
He said the Pakistani people were prosperous until 2018 and the PML-N during its tenure had started development projects in all sectors.
"There was adequate electricity again, terrorism ended, the economy was skyrocketing, poverty was ending, the gas too became available, people were getting employment [and] Pakistan was on its way to join the G20," the former premier said.
He said the PTI government had spent more funds on the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project than the combined cost of the Lahore, Islamabad and Multan Metro bus projects started by the PML-N.
"Our growth rate was 5.8 per cent and today it is nearing -1.4pc," he said, adding that the PML-N government had kept the dollar exchange rate and prices of everyday commodities under control.
Referring to the motorway and Nankana Sahib rape incidents, he said criminals were "roaming freely" today unlike during the PML-N tenure.
Later in the evening, Maryam Nawaz, who was flanked by veteran politician Javed Hashmi, at a press conference alleged that Prime Minister Imran is a "weak" prime minister who has "come to power through conspiracy".
"He uses institutions when he can't do anything; so if you keep using institutions like this there will be a time when they will say 'leave us out, fight your own battles'."
She ruled out the option of dialogue with the government, saying she was not ready to even accept the current set-up as a government.
"We should have challenged this government [and] exposed it on day one but better late than never.
"It has been happening for 72 years that no one talks to puppets, but those who are behind them, but this time Nawaz Sharif has decided that there will not be any negotiations. We will fight on principles."
'Nawaz wants institutions to fight'
Responding to Nawaz's latest speech, federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said the PML-N supremo's "only motive" at the moment was to create rifts between different national institutions.
"First he wanted to create differences within the government, army and the judiciary. After failing there, he wants the institutions to fight amongst themselves," he alleged.
The minister said Nawaz's family businesses were thriving during his tenure but his government left the economy tanked.
Addressing a news conference soon after Nawaz's speech, Information Minister Shibli Faraz said the PML-N leader was "making speeches against the country from where he earned billions of dollars, bought foreign assets and settled family businesses".
He said the PTI government only wanted Nawaz to answer two questions: "How did you amass these assets and how did you take the money abroad?"
He said Prime Minister Imran was also asked the same questions and he was declared 'Sadiq' (truthful) and 'Ameen' (righteous) because he provided the requisite money trail.
"This nation gave you three chances and instead of building institutions you broke them, you tanked the economy [and] ruined this country while giving a structure to this nation that respect is only given to the rich."
He said the PML-N government had "artificially priced" the dollar at Rs100 which "ruined" the economy because imports became cheap and exports became expensive.
"You compromised on a society where there is wealth creation, job opportunities and dollars are needed for imports ... and as a result, we are always in need of dollars," he added while addressing Nawaz.
"You didn't spend on development, education, poor people [and] today you say that the economy has crashed. You are responsible for this."
Faraz said the institutions Nawaz was speaking against were "good" when he was in power but now that he was out of power, they had become "bad".
"There is no difference between your speech and Altaf Hussain's, except that the slogan which he raised is missing. His modus operandi was the same."
The minister said Nawaz should not have been allowed to leave. "If you were allowed to leave then everyone in prison should have the same facility," he added.
He said the former prime minister accusing the army of manipulating the elections but asked why his party had been part of the assemblies and voting on bills for the past two years.
"Is this your divine right that you will always win in every election? That is not a democracy; that is a monarchy.
"Your attitude was never democratic; everyone knows your background [and] how you came into politics," he told Nawaz. "You are a beneficiary of this system; you are speaking against it today because it's not in your favour."
He said if the PML-N had issues with the elections it was free to file petitions in courts.