Nawaz Sharif: Outcast, not ousted

By MURTAZA SOLANGI — He is out but not out in the cold. On the contrary, Nawaz Sharif, the ousted (Pakistani) prime minister, keeps attracting media and generates big news. Saturday he had a session with some media moguls and media persons; Monday he had another batch of the same. Speak he did.

Finally, he said what everybody in the know has been talking about. Shehbaz Sharif won’t come to Islamabad. Shahid Khakan Abbasi would complete the remainder of the term. Even if the judicial review petition is accepted and his disqualification rescinded, he would not be the PM. Not under the current tenure of the assemblies. The man himself told the media persons.

So who fills the big boots of NA-120? He was asked point blank. The answer was that the selection committee was still out. No verdict yet while the nominations are just a couple of days away.

Punjab House was the place where former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar used to hold his court, usually on Sundays. Nawaz Sharif was asked why Nisar was not in the Abbasi cabinet. His answer was short: Nisar did not want to be in this cabinet.

Is his journey to Lahore starting on Wednesday aimed at confrontation with state institutions such as the judiciary and the security establishment? His answer is an emphatic “no”. “I only want people to know who have been conspiring against democracy for the last seven decades,” he replied. To top it off, he said the same forces that hamstrung democracy for the entire history of Pakistan were behind his disqualification.

On Saturday, he talked about the unfinished agenda of the “Charter of Democracy”, and on Monday he pointed to one of its unimplemented items, —- The Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He told the media people that he thought it was the need of the hour, and he was willing to call anybody, former president Asif Ali Zardari included.

Nawaz expressed his agony and pain about relations with the higher judiciary. He referred to a reportedly pending file in the PM House inviting ire of a judge remarking the sitting PM that Adiala Jail had some vacancy. He also referred to comments thrown at him dubbing him as “Godfather” and “Sicilian Mafia”. “I submitted myself and my entire family to courts and implemented the verdict against myself. Is that what ‘mafias’ and ‘Godfathers’ do?” he asked.

Nawaz Sharif despite his disqualification verdict was not angry with his lawyers. Despite media reports and many in the legal community raising fingers at his legal team, Nawaz maintained magnanimity and rather praised all his legal counsels. It started with Panama and ended on “Iqama”, he quipped.

Nawaz Sharif once again raised questions about the process leading to his disqualification specifically mentioning WhatsApp calls by the SC registrar, and induction of representatives of the Military Intelligence and the ISI in the JIT.

He said the NAB had been asked to file references within six weeks and hinted at the possibility that the defunct JIT might gather something new against them in the period. But his main point was why a sitting judge of the apex court was supervising the NAB courts. How can they have a fair trial with the Supreme Court judge overseeing it? Where we would file an appeal, Nawaz asked.

The country can’t function like this, he said. “We would have to get to the bottom of this to lead this country. I am here to stay and fight back. I am not running away,” the former prime minister said.

He was asked why his government allowed former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf to leave the country. Sharif’s response was rather ambivalent. Our shoulders were used to get him out, complained the former premier. But he did not let the opportunity slip to repeat the question: “Is there a court that can try dictators like Musharraf?”

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