The daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has acknowledged that Pakistan’s powerful military establishment brought her father back from the U.K. where he was in self-imposed exile for four years, confirming what his opponents have been alleging ahead of the general election on February 8.
Mr. Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz, who is also the chief organiser for his party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), was addressing a rally at Nankana Sahib, about 80 km from Lahore, on Wednesday when she made this claim.
She shared the stage with Mr. Sharif, 74, who, however, did not make any such claim.
The PML-N supremo is the only Pakistani politician who became the prime minister of the coup-prone country for a record three times. He ended his four-year self-imposed exile in the U.K. and returned to Pakistan in October last year after securing what his opponents and political analysts described as “blessings of the powerful military establishment.”
His party is considered a favourite to win next month’s polls for the same reasons with some of the Opposition parties terming him a ‘Laadla’ (favourite) of the establishment.
However, this is the first time that someone from the Sharif family has revealed that it was the military establishment that brought him back to Pakistan.
“Those (military establishment) who ousted Nawaz Sharif have brought him back,” Maryam Nawaz told the rally.
A while later, she repeated: “They ousted Nawaz every now and then… sometimes in (Musharraf) plane hijacking case and sometimes for not taking a salary from his son. But now those who ousted him have brought him back.”
Mr. Sharif was disqualified in 2017 and later in 2018 convicted in two cases of corruption. He was arrested and put in jail but set free after being given bail. He, however, jumped the bail and left for the U.K. in November 2019 on “medical grounds.”
Since his return to the country, things have eased for the PML-N leader as he has gotten relief from various courts in case after case against him.
As the moniker ‘Laadla’ (the blue-eyed of) of the establishment seems to haunt Sharif, Maryam said: “These days it is being said that Nawaz Sharif is a Laadla (of military establishment) … yes, he is, but that of the people of the country.”
Jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) has already alleged that Mr. Sharif returned to the country after striking a deal with the powerful military. “Under the London Plan, Imran Khan was sent to jail, the party was crushed and the government was given to Nawaz Sharif,” the PTI has maintained.
Mr. Khan has been lodged in the Adiala Jail Rawalpindi since August last year in different cases while his party has been deprived of its iconic symbol the cricket ‘bat’ for the February 8 polls. Its candidates are contesting independently.
On the other hand, Mr. Sharif is being given a PM-designate protocol in the country.
At the same rally, Mr. Sharif criticised Mr. Khan and declared himself a homegrown prime minister, rejecting the notion of being an “imported” leader.
Directing barbs at the PTI founder but without explicitly naming him, the PML-N leader lashed out at Mr. Khan, describing him as an “unsuccessful prime minister who shot himself in the foot,” Geo News reported.
“I was not an imported prime minister, I was a local prime minister and he was a failed prime minister,” Mr. Sharif told the rally, and added, “The enemies of the country did not give us a chance and toppled our government through a conspiracy.”
Dawn newspaper said Mr. Sharif declared his intention “to overhaul the country’s political system” which has led to the “unceremonious departure of prime ministers” even as he questioned the reasons behind his removal from power ahead of the previous elections.
“Why was I handcuffed, sent to jail, and exiled (to the U.K.)? I want an answer,” he said and added, “We will change this whole system and for this, I need your support. We will do such works that will be remembered in history.”
This was the third rally Mr. Sharif addressed since the party launched its election campaign over a week ago.