LAHORE: PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif on Saturday expressed his intention to normalise Pakistan’s ties with its neighbouring countries, particularly India, if voted to power in elections slated to be held in February.

The former prime minister was speaking to ticket aspirants at the party’s Model Town office. It may be noted that PML-N’s parliamentary board has been doling out tickets in the lead-up to polls.

The ex-premier called for improving ties with New Delhi, which were downgraded following the removal of India-held Kashmir’s autonomous status in 2019.

“We will have to improve our relations with India, Afghanistan, and Iran. We need to ensure stronger relations with China,” he said and recalled that during his government’s tenures, two Indian prime ministers — Atal Bihari Vajpa­yee in 1999 and Narendra Modi in 2015 — had visited Pakistan. “Modi Sahib and Vajpayee Sahib came here (on my invitation). Did anyone come here before them?” he asked. Mr Sharif said his party never stepped back when it was about dignity and sovereignty of Pakistan.

Says Musharraf ousted him for opposing Kargil war

“How can you achieve a global status when your neighbours are upset with you?” he asked and regretted that Pakistan was lagging behind if compared to neighbours.

Referring to the Kargil war, Mr Sharif said he was ousted by then-military chief Pervez Musha­rraf because he opposed this “misadventure”.

“I should be told why I was ousted in 1993 and 1999. Each time, we came to power and delivered, and yet we were ousted prematurely. Was it because we took matters in the right direction?” he asked and added that in 1999 when he opposed fighting in Kargil as it should not have happened he was ousted through a putsch.

“Time has proved us right as far as the Kargil episode is concerned,” he said.

According to Nawaz Sharif, he was delivering during all his tenures as the prime minister but still, he was sent packing. “I am still figuring out… I want to know why I was ousted every time,” Mr Sharif asked.

“Improving ties with India always remai­ned a point of conflict between Nawaz and the establishment in the past. Whenever Nawaz Sharif came to power he tried to shake hands with India against the wishes of the powers that be,” a political observer said. If Mr Sharif came to power after the Feb 8 polls, he would go for better ties with India, he added.

Economic woes

Lashing out at PTI leader Imran Khan, Mr Sharif said: “I do not know why an ‘inexperienced man’ was given the reins of the country. The economy witnessed downfall during Mr Khan’s tenure. Then the Shehbaz Sharif government came and rescued the country from economic default.”

He said during the tenure of Imran Khan eff­orts were made to sabotage CPEC. “The Chinese president told me that CPEC was a gift for me,” Mr Sharif claimed, adding that the Imran-led government had also created problems for PML-N regarding electricity prices.

Mr Sharif said those who entangled Pakistan in the economic mess by toppling his government in 2017 would be held accountable. “No patriot can do what they did to our country,” he said while referring to some former generals and judges.

“We do not want to come into power to roam around in luxury cars but we want accountability of those who ruined this co­u­ntry and made false cases against us,” Mr Sharif had said on Friday.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2023

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