New Delhi: Asking Pakistan to introspect on its lack of credibility in the world, the country’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lashed out at the military establishment for colluding with the judiciary, and at his opponents for manipulating events to stop him from coming back to power.
The media had gathered to attend a press conference by Sharif on Wednesday about his visit to Saudi Arabia, which had led to a lot of speculation. Instead, he read from a written statement in which he directly pointed fingers at the army and the judiciary.
English papers featured his comments in the front pages, but had varying news placement. It was the lead story in The Dawn and The Nation, but was the second lead in the Jang group’s The News and bottom anchor in The Express Tribune. The last two newspapers had reports about the Pakistan military chief and the government’s response to the threat of cutting down aid to Islamabad as their top stories.
“I have been insisting for long that we need to put our own house in order if we want to be respected in the world. Why the world sees us with suspicion? Why the blood of our people, our soldiers, our policemen and our other compatriots has become so cheap? I have always insisted on self-reflection but my intentions were doubted,” he said.
The ‘Dawn leaks’ – the term provided to the controversy over a column in the country’s top English newspaper – claimed that the Sharif’s civilian government had confronted the military about its failure to rein in proxy terror groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and the Haqqani network. At the height of the outrage led mostly by ‘military sources’, the government denied the story, an official inquiry was initiated and the author was put on the exit control list. The political situation calmed down only after the information minister Pervaiz Rashid resigned.
“My patriotism was questioned. And the results are for everyone to see. We need to get out of self-deception and self-praise. This self-congratulatory attitude will not help. Self-reflection is required,” Sharif said.
Sharif, who was ousted based on a Supreme Court judgement accusing him of possessing undeclared assets, asked why “our narrative” about the deaths of thousands of security forces in the fight against terrorism was “not being accepted”.
“We need to search for the answers to these questions,” he said.
After his disqualification from office, Sharif had become highly critical of the ‘establishment’ and had threatened to expose the political machinations.
He did not take names, but his inference was clear when he referred to the ‘ladla’ having his path cleared for the top post through legal cases being lobbed against the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader.
Sharif’s press conference at Punjab House in Islamabad came directly after his appearance at the accountability court for corruption hearing. He is being investigated by the National Accountability Bureau for references related to the Panama Papers about offshore companies, Al-Azizia steel mill and London’s Avenfield properties.
He warned that political leaders were being ‘chained’ through phone calls, secret contacts and illegal decisions.
“The sanctity of ballot should not be trampled,” he asserted.
Sharif said that with 2018 being an election year, there is greater ‘political engineering’ going behind closed doors.
“The behind the curtain activities will be known to the nation. What goes on behind closed doors to destabilise democratic set-up through conspiracies – how ‘ladlas’ are nurtured and planted to overrun the will of the public – will be unearthed,” he said. Sharif has been recently referring to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman, Imran Khan, as ‘ladla’ – an apparent reference to the security establishment’s backing for the former cricket captain.
The former prime minister promised to share evidence and end the silence. “I will divulge the facts and unveil the evil designs (of certain elements) to pamper their ‘ladlas’ (favourites) and to marginalise elected public representatives”.
In a television programme on Wednesday night, Major General Asif Ghafoor, director general, Inter-Services Press Relations, said that Sharif should bring forward evidence if there was any conspiracy.
Earlier, Sharif had said that it was highly unfair that he had been sacked due to not any corruption cases, but irregularities in his iqama or work permit.
He also responded to the anti-terrorism court’s bail to Imran Khan in four cases filed against him for ‘attack’ on the parliament house and the Pakistan Television building during the dharna in Islamabad in 2014.
“All this is moving forward through a strategy. But the time has changed and it is 2018 and not 1947, 1958, 1969 or 1977. Time has changed, the nation is aware and we shall have to meet obligations of present times,” he added. The years were a reference to when the Pakistani army took over the reins of administration with generals Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan and Zia-ul-haq keeping politicians largely behind bars or under intense pressure.
He claimed that Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah had held that public opinion was never wrong, and regretted that the principle being followed in Pakistan for the past 70 years was that public opinion was always wrong.
Sharif deplored US President Donald Trump’s tweet which said that Pakistan was offering only “lies and deceit” in exchange for US assistance.
He also took the opportunity to take a dig at the former Pakistani army general Pervez Musharraf who replaced Sharif in a coup in 1999. He said that a democratic government in 2001 would “never have sold its expertise or self-respect to the US”. Following 9/11, Musharraf had capitulated to US pressure to support the invasion against Taliban-ruled Afghanistan after senior American official Richard Armitage gave him an ultimatum.