PML determined to defy political ban

Published April 19, 2002

ISLAMABAD, April 18: The leadership of Pakistan Muslim League is believed to have asked their exiled leader Mian Nawaz Sharif to make his return home well in-time - before the October elections - and defy all government’s restrictions if the party is to maintain its vote bank.

The party’s central information secretary Siddiqul Farooq endorsed these reports when he declared at a news conference on Thursday that “Nawaz Sharif will return home, come what may, and his homecoming will give a surprise to his followers as well as detractors”.

He strongly contradicted existence of any agreement which bound Nawaz Sharif from coming home for 10 years and challenged that if the government possessed such a document it should produce it before the people.

He, however, avoided replying to a question whether the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was not a guarantor in the said agreement which restricted Nawaz Sharif from indulging in politics. He said that Nawaz Sharif had not stopped his political activities during his stay in Saudi Arabia as a number of his interviews had been published in Pakistan and other countries.

Before coming back, he said Nawaz Sharif will speak telephonically to his Lahori audience at an ARD meeting at Minar- i-Pakistan on April 27, he said.

Well-informed party sources revealed to Dawn that the message, requesting him to return home early, was conveyed by party chairman Raja Zafarul Haq during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia to attend Rabita Alam Islami conference.

In a meeting with Nawaz Sharif and Shabaz Sharif in Jeddah the party leader briefed them on the ground realities and party’s dependence on their return.

The sources said that the party high command was perturbed over the present status of its leadership; Sharif’s exile and Makhdoom Javed Hashmi’s detention had reduced its political image.

A section of the league leadership is also sceptical of the party decision to work in alliance with the PPP whose rivalry earned the party a big chunk of anti-Bhutto votes.

In this scenario the party sources say that only Nawaz Sharif could restore the party’s image both in the eyes of voters as well as in attracting some influential political heavy weights.

Farooq, who is top confidant of Nawaz Sharif, said that the party will hold a rally at Minar-i-Pakistan as a component party of ARD, provided the government lifts section 144.

He alleged that the rallies which were being addressed by Gen Musharraf comprised the administration, khakis in plainclothes, agencies’ personnel, government employees and the likes.

He denied a press report that Nawaz Sharif had stopped the party from taking action against Sheikh Rashid and said the party secretary-general Saranjam Khan will be sending another notice to Sheikh today asking him to produce the video cassette and an explanation which he had promised.

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