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ISLAMABAD: Former Prime Minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Quaid Nawaz Sharif has finally broke his silence, saying opposition parties' struggle is not against Prime Minister Imran Khan 'but against those who brought him to power'.

In a bold speech via a video-link from London to an All-Party Conference (APC) hosted by Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Sharif openly criticised the "establishment" for what he said "government making and breaking, as well as creating a alleged parallel government in the country." Sharif is in London since November 2019 for medical treatment and Islamabad High Court (IHC) recently issued non-bailable arrest warrants for him.

"Former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani once pointed to 'a state within a state' in the country. [But], unfortunately, the situation has now reached 'a state above the state'," Sharif maintained, adding, "There is either a martial law or creation of 'parallel government' in the country, which is the root-cause of the problems." He pointed out that in the country's history, dictators have ruled for 35 years with an average tenure of nine years of each dictator. "On the other hand, the elected prime ministers perhaps, remained in power for an average two years of term each," he added.

Referring to the outcomes of 2018 elections, he said, the primary reason for the current problems were, "Those people who hijacked the people's mandate and installed inexperienced people in the power."

"This is a violation of the Constitution. Has anyone ever thought as to what a serious crime it is to steal the people's mandate? Can I ask why the RTS [Results Transmission System] was closed for hours during the elections and why the polling agents were thrown out from the process of counting? Why was rigging done, on whose directions saying and for what reasons?" he asked.

He said that the former Chief Election Commissioner and all those involved will have to be made answerable.

"The government has enforced a 'martial law'...criminals are allowed to make amendments to the Constitution...the people's elected prime minister is expelled and his family is insulted," he alleged.

Endorsing the view point of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, he called upon the participants of the conference to come up with an outcome of the APC beyond the 'traditional' decisions.

"If we failed to do something beyond traditional decisions, it will once again disappoint the nation," he asserted. "If we don't do it today, when will we?...I agree with Maulana Fazlur Rehman that we need to make this conference purposeful or people will be disappointed," he added. "Our fight is not against Imran Khan. But our struggle is against those who brought an incompetent person like him in power by manipulating the 2018 elections and thus, destroyed the country," he maintained.

He underscored the need for a 'change', saying if a 'change' is not brought it will bring irreversible loss to the country.

"It is very important that our armed forces stay away from our governmental system as per the Constitution and the Quaid's vision, and not interfere in the people's choice...we have made this country a joke in our own eyes and internationally as well," he declared.

He lamented that Pakistan has been constantly deprived of a democratic system. "When the vote is dishonoured, the entire democratic system becomes meaningless. When it is decided before the election process as to who will win and who will lose, it can be guessed how the public is betrayed and how the people's mandate is stolen," he said, adding that Pakistan has become a laboratory of such experiments.

Sharif also referred to the case of former military ruler General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, saying "when a dictator was first brought into the courtroom for violating the Constitution, you saw what happened?" "Court gave dictators the right to play with the Constitution and acquitted someone who broke the Constitution twice. Whereas, the ones who follow the Constitution are still in jail... the court also announced a punishment, but let me ask whether the accused got the punishment? Instead, the punishment was declared an unconstitutional by the court itself," he added.

"It is not a new thing in Pakistan that dictators are always set free and are not held accountable for whatever they do," he said.

About the foreign policy, he maintained that that country's good reputation in the international community has been ruined due to the current policies and 'incompetence', adding that the foreign policy has been made as 'game of kids'.

"It is because of this 'puppet' government that India annexed Kashmir. Why is the world not ready to listen to us today? Why are we facing isolation?" he asked.

He said that Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi made statements that disappointed Saudi Arabia, adding that we need to strengthen the OIC.

Speaking about China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he said that the PTI government is treating the multi-billion dollar project like BRT Peshawar.

The former premier also pointed out to the issue of 'Dawn Leaks', saying that when a reference was given to the national security issues back in October 2016, it was made 'Dawn Leaks'. "Then you saw a tweet of 'Rejected' by an official of the subordinate institution," he added.

He also maintained that the provincial government of Balochistan was overthrown through a 'nefarious conspiracy' during his tenure.

"Such a big scandal against Asim Saleem Bajwa came to light but neither NAB nor any court ordered an inquiry nor formed any JIT [joint investigation team]...nor any monitoring judge came forward and Imran Khan is saying he will not give 'NRO' to anyone," he further maintained.

About the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), he said that the Bureau has become a toll for political victimisation, adding that not abolishing the NAB created by a dictator was a mistake. He maintained that the NAB chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal was caught misusing his position but no action was taken against him.

"Soon, a day will come when everyone would be held accountable," he added.

He alleged that Prime Minister Imran Khan and people around him were involved in sugar scandal, but neither anybody was arrested nor any NAB reference filed against them.

"Imran Khan's income is low. From where did he spend millions of rupees on his Zaman Park residence in Lahore? Will the NAB also probe into the spending on his Bani Gala residence? When will the foreign funding case come to its logical end?" he asked. He maintained that Imran Khan owns property worth billions of rupees, but he pays only Rs282,449 taxes.

He also spoke about the country's economic situation, saying that the government made record borrowing record loans while Pakistan's currency has devalued even against the currencies of Afghanistan and Nepal.

In his address to the APC, PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif said that dictatorships in the country's history put a 'black mark' on everything including democracy.

"Remember when a 'selected' government came into power and the selected prime minister promised the nation that the discrepancy in the elections, the disappearance of the RTS system, and the pre-engineering of election results would be investigated which is yet to be done," he added. He strongly criticised the government, saying that it has failed in every aspect "while the 'selected prime minister' has left poor people at mercy of the floods".

He said that four million have lost their jobs during the last two years, adding that the free medicines are no longer provided in the hospitals, price of sugar has crossed Rs100 and price of wheat is at record high during first two years of current government.

He said that the PTI government has resorted to political revenge in the name of accountability, adding that had there been accountability in the country, those sitting in the cabinet would have been in jails.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020