LONDON/ABU DHABI: Former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League-N supremo Nawaz Sharif has said that the “draconian crackdown” on his supporters by the Punjab government shows that the authorities are scared of his appeal and desperate to stop tens of thousands of people from reaching Lahore airport to welcome him and his daughter Maryam.
Nawaz spoke to The News from the Harley Street Clinic prior to his departure to Abu Dhabi en route to Lahore.
He said that he was aware that hundreds of his supporters have been picked up from across Punjab and more raids are being planned. “I am aware that main roads have been closed leading to Lahore, the motorway has been closed and all modes of transport have been shut down to stop my supporters from reaching Lahore. This is the worst kind of crackdown on democracy and rule of law in Pakistan,” he said.
Nawaz said that the massive crackdown showed that his enemies were clearly perturbed, adding that the fact that the interim Punjab government resorted to using violence on his supporters showed that his narrative had become more popular than before and propaganda against him had failed to dent their spirits.
“My supporters trust me and know that I have been acquitted of all corruption charges. I have been given a clean chit by the NAB court and I am honoured. My conviction is political and it’s based on presumptions and assumptions. Its just to fix the elections and the outcome of these elections,” he alleged.
When asked if he was prepared for the difficulties that prison brings, Nawaz said he was not going to prison for the first time. “I was imprisoned at Attock Fort during Musharraf's reign — when I could not even see outside my window cell as it was covered with black paper. I was subjected to torture and humiliation for several months."
After [the military coup] of October 12, 1999, Nawaz said he remained incarcerated for several months in unknown places, not knowing whether it was day or night. "This was a time when there was no case registered against me, neither was I sentenced,” he asserted.
He added that back then, his "crime was to dismiss Musharraf, who had put national security at stake through an adventure. In return, he not only took over power but handcuffed and put the elected prime minister in a prison cell".
“This is the history of this country and the most tragic part of it was that the judiciary, like always, accepted the abrogation of the Constitution. A large number of judges had pledged allegiance to Musharraf, turning away from their constitutional oath. No one asked where the prime minister of the country was.”
Nawaz said that today’s situation is not different from that of the Musharraf era.
“Today, apparently, there is democracy in the state, but the situation is not different. I know what difficulties would be there in prison. I don't know how long will I be there in this era of cruelty and injustice, but my mission is to rid my nation of this 70-year imprisonment, which is why I am returning to country regardless of the consequences.”
Termin his conviction “a game of blind revenge”, the PML-N supremo said, “This was neither a case, nor there is a verdict. This is a game of blind revenge, which is continuing. There is no case against me, there never was. The whole Panama case was started to fix politics and to take me out because I wanted a stronger democracy.”
Nawaz said he was honoured that all allegations of corruption against him have been proven wrong and thrown out by the court.
“Lofty claims were made about corruption a year ago as well and when nothing could be found then I was ousted from the PM House for not receiving an imaginary salary from my son; disqualified for life. The Parliament of Pakistan passed a law that a disqualified member could stay as a member or president of a party but this law was overturned only in my enmity.
“The Senate candidates, whom I had issued tickets, were deprived of Lion symbol and declared independents. I do not know why they were not allotted 'Jeep' symbol at that time. Only you can explain this. This was something which never happened in our history. Then these references were prepared on the orders of the Supreme Court.
“Now, not only in Pakistan, but in the outside world as well the decision is being declared extremely weak and shallow. Even according to the verdict, no allegation of corruption or misuse of authority was proven against me. I was absolved of this charge,” said the former prime minister.
Nawaz said that the NAB court verdict confirmed that the prosecution failed to establish his link with the Avenfield apartments.
“This was not finally established from the verdict as to who owns Avenfield flats. According to the judge, a grandfather cannot give anything to his grandsons and they are after all dependent on their parents, which is why it was assumed that these flats are owned by me. Can any sane person accept this kind of argument and reasoning? We are going into an appeal and if there is even a fraction of law and justice left in this country, then this verdict will be nullified on the first hearing,” vowed Nawaz.
He said his daughter Maryam has also been convicted and disqualified despite the fact that there was no case of disqualification against her before the court.
“Here verdicts are not announced on the basis of an FIR or a case. Decisions are made on the basis of revenge and rivalry or under pressure.”