Buoyed By Huge Rallies, Nawaz Sharpens His “Anti-Establishment” Narrative In Court, Media
Yesterday, however, political leaders and lawmakers set their differences aside and voted unitedly for the merger of tribal areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province
May 25, 2018 (DESPARDES/PKONWEB) — Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been sharing his views and stances — both in court and outside with the media — on the ongoing investigations against him and his family calling them politically motivated driven by the single agenda of “powers to be” to sideline him and his family from country’s mainstream politics.
His younger brother Shahbaz Sharif who has been comfortably ruling — for the last two terms — Punjab — the largest province with maximum number of electoral votes to from a government in the center — is now the legal head of the PML-N party but Nawaz still leads the base even though he has been ousted by a top court order disqualifying him as party president.
Down but not out, the former prime minister has been drawing attention with his scathing attacks against what he has termed as the “military-judiciary” nexus albeit “powers to be” and is convinced they are actually calling the shots.
The battle for his perceptions and narratives to sink in and the counter-narratives by others consume most nightly talk shows and newspaper headlines now — elections are due toward the end of July, and Sharif’s stronghold and bastion of power –the Punjab, simmers in the long hot summer.
On Thursday, Nawaz further upped the ante with his diatribe stating, “Whosoever has dragged Maryam (his daughter considered his political heir) to court cannot evade the consequences of their actions. Sharif’s apparent warning came while he spoke with media-persons inside the accountability court.
Family members, Nawaz said, who had never held public offices were facing court cases. He claimed Maryam had no connection with politics but she was being dragged to courts.
“You are implicating even our daughters in this ruthless game,” he decried.
“Don’t tread a path of no return,” the former prime minister said. “This behavior will have consequences impossible to escape,” Nawaz added.
The former ousted Prime Minister said Maryam was in no way connected with the era for which he and his family was being investigated.
Sharifs face a plethora of white collar crime related investigations dating back to two decades, ordered by the Supreme Court in its July verdict while deseating him as the Prime Minister. Nawaz says he was disqualified as PM on flimsy ground, and he was deseated from his party’s presidentship as part of a campaign hatched years back.
Nawaz continues to call the top court ordered investigations against him and his family politically motivated and a witch-hunt — the probes were triggered by revelations contained in Panama Papers on Sharif family’s and other Pakistanis’ assets held abroad in and through offshore companies.
Doubting the sincerity of those who had launched the campaign against him, Nawaz said that he did not know what they were after by targeting him and his family. “Mujhe Kyun Nikala (Why was I removed) has become his battle-cry which draws huge crowd to his rallies he has been holding in the rural hinterland.
Both father and daughter maintain that members of the investigation team probing the Sharif family were biased and had been influenced by others, manipulating the outcome.
Maryam says: “Everyone knows that general (retired) Musharraf is, and has been, at least since 1999 (maybe even before that), hostile towards my father and persistently harbored ill-will and hatred.”
A day earlier, Nawaz’s ceaseless criticism of the establishment took a big step forward when he blamed the country’s “powerful generals and judges” for ousting him thrice from power.
Army generals imposed martial laws to throw out democratically-elected prime ministers of Pakistan, and judges legitimized the military rule by providing it legal cover, he said.
The three-time prime minister, whose recent statement about the Mumbai attacks has drawn widespread criticism, said this while recording his statement in London’s Avenfield properties reference before an accountability court on Wednesday.
The deposed prime minister told the accountability court that the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) corruption references against him “are a punishment for going ahead with treason case” against former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf among other things.
He said the references and the 2014 sit-ins by Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri against his government were a punishment for him as he dared to take legal action against the former military ruler despite being warned not to do so. Sharif government had filed treason case against Musharraf, the former military ruler.
He informed the court that “baseless and frivolous cases” were filed against him because he refused to obey the orders to refrain from filing case against Musharraf.
In yet another startling claim, Sharif said the head of an intelligence agency had given him a message to “either resign or go on a long leave”.
The spy agency head believed that the case against Musharraf could easily be wrapped up once he got out of the way, he said.
“The message caused immense pain. I felt pain thinking what has happened to Pakistan where an elected prime minister has become so worthless that a subordinate to the head of the government is giving [him] message to resign or go on a long leave,” he said, adding that such a terrible situation might not even be prevailing in any Third World country.
“The abrogation of the Constitution and violation of the sacred oath for military’s subordination of all state institutions not only lower the army’s status but also affect its professional capacities as well as its integrity,” he added.
Nawaz said, “A dictator must be punished because the dictatorships have wounded the existence of Pakistan,” adding that only a handful of the generals ruled the country but “the entire institution has to pay the cost”.
However, the former prime minister also praised the armed forces’ sacrifices, saying he knew “a weak army means a weak defense”. But he said, “Praiseworthy are the ones who sacrifice their lives today for a better tomorrow of Pakistan and prefer to stay in the barracks instead of remaining in the corridors of power.”
In a veiled reference to the Dawn leaks, the deposed prime minister said when he insisted on “putting the house in order”, he was considered a hindrance and ultimately disqualified from holding public office, then removed as the PML-N head, and finally disqualified for life.
He said he had already been punished once for his unwavering stance on civil supremacy when 19 years ago he was detained in torture cells, sentenced to life imprisonment, handcuffed and jetted off.
“Was there a Panama at that time? Was I subjected to such treatment because of Avenfield properties? The answer is simply no. At that time, too, I was demanding civil supremacy. I wanted foreign and domestic policies to be in the hand of the elected representative,” he asserted.
Sharif said it didn’t make any difference for him if someone called him “hijacker, Sicilian mafia, godfather, traitor or enemy of the country”.
“I am a true son of the soil. I consider taking a certificate of patriotism from anyone a disgrace to patriotism,” he said.
He also voiced his displeasure over the Supreme Court’s July 28 verdict, asking what the judgment gave to Pakistan. “My disqualification may have satisfied some people but what did it give to democracy, constitutional system, judiciary or criminal justice system?”
The jury is still somewhat out though on furtherance of rule of law in the country — where skepticsm and conspiracy theories rule the roost — and according to Nawaz his popularity remains numero uno, and crowd-drawing capability tell tales who is right or wrong, he asserts.
Observers do agree that Sharif remains a formidable force to reckon with in the country’s high-wired and intense politics laced with uncertainties and miracles.
The judiciary and the military and the intelligentsia say rule of law must prevail across the board with accountability for all — multinationals, international NGOs, including China with its CPEC have in many words been tacitly (some publicly) demanding a cleaner campus on ground for investments and their sustainability in Pakistan which is on upward trajectory with multibillions pouring in years ahead.
Sharif said Panama Papers scandal was used against him despite the fact that his name was not in the leaked papers. He said he had faced over 70 hearings in the accountability court. He also reiterated his August 2017 questions that he had raised at a lawyers’ convention.
Sharif believes it’s not about rule of law (it’s an excuse he says) but about power-sharing between democratic setups and the state also known as “the establishment”.
“I wish it was possible to ask Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan’s soul as to why he was martyred. I wish we could ask Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s soul why he was hanged. I wish you could ask Benazir Bhutto’s soul why she was killed. I wish we could call back all the elected prime ministers and ask why they couldn’t complete their constitutional terms,” Sharif said, reading out his statement before accountability court judge Muhammad Bashir.
“I wish you could call the generals, including the one who is still alive, and ask as to what was special in them that they ruled for decades,” Sharif said. “I wish you could also call your senior judges and ask why they legitimized dictatorships, why they went against their oaths and submitted themselves to the wills of the dictators.”
‘Brothers of destruction’
Claiming to ‘expose’ the hurdles he faced after pursuing the treason case against Musharraf, Sharif explained how the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) formed an alliance and demanded his resignation.
He said he visited PTI Chairman Imran Khan at Bani Gala in March 2014, adding that it was a pleasure meeting with Khan and there was no mention of rigging or protest.
However, while swift progress was being made in the Musharraf’s treason case here, Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri of the PAT met in London, after which slogans of rigging emerged on the streets, he said. They planned a rally in Islamabad and started off their sit-ins on August 14, 2014 that lasted for four months, he added.
Sharif said the outcome and result of the sit-ins were in front of the country to see. “The two were allied on the basis that the prime minister should resign. The question arises how they came to this conclusion? Who set them up? Who united them? Who fed them the demand of the prime minister’s resignation?” he questioned.
“All of that was orchestrated so that I could be ousted from the PM’s office and the case against Musharraf would come to a grinding halt,” he said. “It was a planned and severe attack. The planners had misjudged me. They thought I would be ready for a compromise.”
Sharif said he had seen days “when the gates to the Prime Minister House were hijacked by ruffians, and announcements were made to drag the prime minister out with a rope around his neck”.
“But with the help of Allah I stood by my stance,” he said.
‘Zardari wanted compromise’
Sharif also claimed that former president Asif Ali Zardari had approached him and suggested legitimizing Musharaff’s ‘second martial law’ (the November 3 emergency) in an attempt to reach a compromise.
Answering the 128 questions prepared by the court pertaining to the Avenfield apartment’s reference, he read out a six-page answer in response to a question asking him why the corruption references were filed against him.
“Zardari, along with a prominent political personality, approached me and suggested that we should legitimize the 2007 martial law, imposed by Musharraf, towards the end of his tenure, through Parliament. He explained to me that such compromises are imperative for stability, but I told him that for the last 65 years we have been making such compromises, and that time has now passed,” he said.
The former premier said it was his government which brought Musharraf out of his indemnity provided to him by legitimizing his non-constitutional acts but soon after the treason trial started he understood that it was not an easy task to bring a dictator in court.
Sharif reiterated that the allegations levelled against him were baseless and asked the accountability court judge to make a just decision, saying “You, I and all others will have to appear before Allah Almighty one day.”
Politicos believe Nawaz will continue to raise the pitch against “the establishment” as election nears, but that may help his arch rivals Imran Khan’s party PTI and Bilawal’s Pakistan Peoples Party — both parties are vying to make further inroads in Punjab where the Sharifs have been ruling. More than a dozen electables from Punjab and belonging to PML-N have joined PTI lately, and more are expected to follow, sources say.
There’s intense debate in the ruling party circles though on these developments which many with their fingers on the pulse of the country’s political body say indicate further polarization in days ahead. Yesterday, however, political leaders and lawmakers set their differences aside and voted unitedly for the merger of tribal areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Nothing is impossible in politics if national interest reigns supreme, said one observer.
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