Nawaz Sharif gestures during his speech.—White Star
Nawaz Sharif gestures during his speech.—White Star

• Ex-PM demands accountability of those who ousted him, calls Imran ‘product of establishment’
• Shehbaz attacks ‘black sheep’ in judiciary ‘bent on providing relief’ to PTI leader

LAHORE: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday reclaimed his role as the president of the eponymous PML-N, after staying on the sidelines for almost six years, in a ceremony marked by charged sloganeering and broadsides against those who played a role in his disqualification in the Panama Papers case.

After his ouster, his brother Shehbaz Sharif became the party president, but resigned earlier this month to pave the way for his brother to reclaim the coveted slot, which he had been holding following a Supreme Court ruling in 2017.

At the session of the general council in Lahore, PML-N election commissioner Rana Sanaullah said Nawaz Sharif was nominated for the party president slot. Sanaullah sought approval from the members of the general council, who stood on their seats to endorse the nomination, followed by pro-Nawaz sloganeering.

A resolution was also presented in the meeting demanding action against those invol­ved in toppling the Nawaz government in 2017. The PML-N has repeatedly blamed former generals and superior court judges for the ouster of Nawaz Sharif.

Speaking at the ceremony to mark his ascent to power, both Sharif brothers targeted serving and retired judges and the PTI leader Imran Khan. Nawaz Sharif recalled how he was sent packing on a ‘false case’ by then-chief justice Saqib Nisar.

“Saqib Nisar removed me from the PML-N presidency for a lifetime but the party workers have brought me back. Saqib’s decision has been thrown in a dustbin. There is a need to summon those who disqualified me for not taking a salary from my son. I ask them ‘had I sought salary from their son’,” he said, adding that only “four to five people” deprived Pakistanis of prosperity. “These people have destroyed the country. Are you ashamed of what you have done?” he asked, claiming that the cases against him were “false” while those against Imran Khan were “genuine”.

Mr Sharif once again mentioned the so-called ‘London Plan’ in which a former spymaster, Gen Zaheerul Islam, went to London in 2014 to cobble up an alliance to send his government home. The general met Imran Khan, Pakistan Awami Tehreek chairman Dr Tahirul Qadri and then-PML leader Chaudhry Parvez Elahi to make a plan to topple his government, he claimed.

He claimed the spymaster relayed a message through a property tycoon asking him to resign from the PM office. “But I said I would not resign and he could do whatever he wanted to do,” the PML-N leader said, adding that the ex-spymaster wanted to try out a ‘third force’ which could deliver.

“I ask Imran Khan to admit that the third force Gen Zaheer talked about was the PTI. If Khan denies this I will quit politics,” he declared and added that the retired general was the “third umpire” Mr Khan used to name during his sit-ins in Islamabad. “Imran Khan is a product of these people who rigged the 2018 polls,” he said.

Asking Mr Khan to confess that he was launched by the military establishment before he would respond to his allegation regarding the military establishment supporting him.

“Imran had started his politics sitting on their (military) shoulders,” he alleged.

Nawaz also credited his younger sibling for standing by him through thick and thin. “Efforts were made to create differences between us, but Shehbaz did not falter. Shehbaz was asked to become PM (in the past) and leave me, but he declined….”

The elder Sharif pra­ised the party leaders including disgruntled Sha­­­­h­id Khan Abbasi and Miftah Ismail for facing imprisonment during the PTI government. PML-N’s Hanif Abbasi was caught on camera making a gesture of disdain as Nawaz was praising ex-PM Abbasi.

As the PML-N chose May 28 to re-elect Nawaz as its president, he said: “I forgot today is May 28. President Bill Clinton had offered $5 billion to Pakistan but I refused.”

“Once Pakistan conducted five nuclear tests in reply to India’s [then Indian premier] Atal Bihari Vajpayee sahib came here and made a [peace] agreement with us ... but we violated it and it was our fault,” the elder Sharif said.

‘Black sheep’ in judiciary

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif used the opportunity to reprimand the ‘black sheep’ in the judiciary who allegedly wanted to provide relief to Imran Khan.

“There are some black sheep in the judiciary that are bent upon giving relief to Imran Khan. They are trying to save him from the 190bn pounds and other cases. Every day it is planned how to grant him a bail in certain cases,” the PM said, adding that most judges, however, wanted Pakistan’s progress.

The premier further said that Nawaz Sharif was not given bail for a long period in the past but in the case of Imran Khan they were giving cover to his “black deeds”.

“If development is hampered in the country then there will be no judge and politician,” he warned.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2024

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