LAHORE: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has resumed a long road trip to his hometown of Lahore via the Grand Trunk (GT) Road on Friday after an overnight stay at a hotel located on the banks of the River Jhelum.Sharif’s convoy set out today for Gujranwala where he is expected to spend the night. He touched base briefly at Kharian and Lalamusa, and stopped at Gujrat to address his supporters.”I am back in the court of the people,” Sharif told a crowd of loyalists in Gujrat. “I have filed no appeal in the courts, my only appeal is in your court,” he said.”Have you accepted the decision of that [Supreme] court?” he asked.”People accuse us of hiring people to attend our rallies. Are you for hire?” he asked, to which the crowd responded, “No!”
“Why did you people give me your votes in 2013?” he asked, reminding people of the promises he had made to them and attempted to deliver on. “Today fans work, tubewells work, industries are running, agriculturists are in business, cities are alight… Next year, we will say goodbye to loadshedding for good,” he said.”Why was I deseated? Someone tell me how I committed corruption. There is not a single stain of corruption on me,” he claimed.”The judges themselves say that Nawaz Sharif has not committed any corruption,” he added. “They removed me because I did not take my salary from my son. What kind of father takes a salary from his son?” he asked. “They took your votes, ripped them up and returned them to you.””This is the respect given to your vote. Your vote has not been respected at all,” he said.”Is this acceptable to you? How long will this go on? For 70 years, a joke has been played with this country. I cannot bear this joke anymore. Can you?” he asked, reiterating points made in speeches over the past two days.”This is the third time they have done this to me,” he said.
“First a president removed me, then Pervez Musharraf, a dictator, removed me, and now the judiciary has removed me. Tell me, what should we do now? Should I sit at home? Or should I fight this injustice?””You do not want me to sit at home. You do not want me to accept this decision. What do you want me to do? Will you stand with me? Will you stand with me as I bring the nation out of darkness?””No one will be able to stop Pakistan from progressing, I promise you, but then you will have to do as I ask you to,” he told them.”This is about the honour of 200 million people, and no one will crush this honour under their foot,” he said.”Will you wait for my message?” he asked, to which the crowd responded, “Yes!” “I am not asking that you make me prime minister again,” he reiterated.The Sharif convoy made a stop at Gujrat, where the former PM offered Friday prayers and was to hold a consultative meeting with local workers.
Preparations have also been made for him to address supporters at Gujrat’s GTS Chowk.
“Lahore is not the final destination, it is just the first stop,” PML-N’s Talal Chaudhry said of the party’s plan. “This grand dialogue will move forward and the supremacy of the people will come into play,” he claimed.
Railways Minister Saad Rafique, addressing a crowd in Gujrat, condemned a terror attack in Bajaur Agency earlier today that killed at least two people.
“Why is the law not the same for everyone?” he asked. “A regular person goes from door to door seeking justice for 30 years, but he is never handed a verdict.”A nine-year-old child was run over by an Elite Forces vehicle part of the convoy near Lalamusa. None of the cars in the convoy stopped, DawnNews reported.
The child was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. His father fainted upon seeing his son’s body and was taken to the hospital. Initial reports suggest he is being treated for a heart attack.Nawaz Sharif was said to be in good spirits as he spoke to reporters in an informal setting before resuming his journey from Jhelum to Gujranwala today.
Although there weren’t enough supporters on the road early on in the day, a satisfactory crowd had gathered by 10am, and the former PM seemed happy with the numbersAs the convoy approached Kharian, anti-Nawaz songs could be heard played inside Kharian Cantonment, DawnNews reported. There was an estimated crowd of about 2,000-3,000 people waiting to welcome the procession in Kharian.
The convoy then moved onto Lalamusa, after which it proceeded to Gujrat, where DawnNews came across defaced posters of the former PM.PML-N workers in Gujranwala have set up a stage and sound system for the former premier to make an address to his loyalists.
It normally takes 1.5 to 2 hours to reach Gujranwala from Jhelum via GT Road. However, the convoy is expected to reach by dusk.
According to the schedule issued by PML-N, Sharif will spend the night in Gujranwala and leave for Lahore in the morning. He is expected to reach Lahore at 4pm on Saturday.
PML-N leader Talal Chaudhry today, reiterating the ousted premier’s statements, said Sharif has not set out to be restored to power, but is undertaking the rally to “end the insult to the people’s mandate”.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari during a press conference today claimed “there is not threat to democracy or the system, but a threat to the person of Nawaz.”
“Whenever there is a threat to democracy, we will come forward… The PPP has never supported the PML-N, but supported democracy.”
“When in government, Nawaz Sharif forgets the Charter of Democracy and social contract but suddenly realises them later, which means that he is not genuine,” he said, adding: “Had you [Sharif] taken up this narrative from the beginning, things would have been different… There is no role of the military and judiciary in Parliament.”
Awami Muslim League leader Sheikh Rashid, speaking to DawnNews today, said that Sharif had only one day left to demonstrate “his show of power”.
“You can push all you want, but ultimately, all you will be doing is issuing statements,” Rashid said. “He is unable to specify what his mission is.”The rally, which started on Wednesday, halted at Jhelum yesterday where Nawaz addressed his supporters at Sohawa Junction and levelled his harshest criticism yet against the judiciary.
Nawaz spoke specifically about the five judges who formed the full-bench of the Supreme Court and passed the verdict that disqualified him under Article 62 of the Constitution in the Panamagate case.
“I became the prime minister of Pakistan through votes, whereas five honourable judges sent me home. Only those who vote politicians into power have the right to depose them,” Nawaz had thundered.
Apparently addressing the judges who had disqualified him, Sharif bellowed: â€œHow will you answer your God? What answer will you give this nation? The people want answers to all these questions.â€
Police today arrested a ‘suspicious individual’ from outside a hotel, where Sharif spent the night. The man insisted on meeting the former prime ministerA two-hour delay in Nawaz’s departure from Rawalpindi a day earlier and his rush to reach Jhelum as the rally proceeded indicated a lack of planning and coordination within the ruling PML-N.
DawnNews reported today that the convoy has been advised to only stop at spots where they have been given security clearance.
The rally was made to wait outside Punjab House in the hope of attracting more and more people, but when it did not happen, the convoy rushed out of Rawalpindi district, bypassing the planned stopovers in Rawat and Gujar Khan, disappointing the local leaders who had set up camps to receive their leader.
Interestingly, the vehicle ousted prime minister Sharif was travelling in sped up all of a sudden while passing through the constituency of former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, making it difficult even for the other vehicles, including those carrying the personnel of protocol and security, to keep pace with it.
The former interior minister was present in the Parliament House when Mr Sharifâ€™s convoy was passing through his constituency, and attempted to shut down speculation over his absence from the rally yesterday.
Speculators said that the key spots were skipped due to low turn outs.
The PML-N supremo expressed his displeasure over the arrangements and asked Senator Pervaiz Rashid and Khawaja Saad Rafique to convey this to leaders of the party’s local chapter.
According to local leaders, Nawaz Sharif made his anger known by not inviting any of the local leaders to the container except Chaudhry Tanveer and his son. He also did not mention the local leadership in his speech.PTI Chairman Imran Khan took to Twitter on Thursday to criticise statements made by ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif against the judiciary.
Imran challenged Nawaz that he can do whatever he can think of to shift the blame, â€œbut in the end you can’t avoid the sinking feeling that the game is over and you have lostâ€.
The PTI chief also criticised Nawaz for taking refuge in the container and hiding behind a bulletproof glass. â€œSpeaking from a bulletproof car doesnâ€™t inspire confidence in already-dwindling crowds.”
Responding to the criticism levelled by the PTI chief, Sharif’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, replied to Khanâ€™s tweet saying, â€œNawaz Sharifâ€™s struggle is bigger than allâ€¦â€.
â€œYou [Imran] have lost it completely. Your heartburn is understandable. You’re irrelevant,â€ she said.
Tehmina Durrani, wife of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, also shared a string of tweets targetting the rally, lending credence to the perception about rift in the Sharif family.
A day after requesting Nawaz Sharif to â€œspare Shahbaz Sharif the responsibility of protecting and assisting his own partyâ€™s rally,â€ Durrani went a step ahead on Thursday and held Nawazâ€™s â€œimmature advisersâ€ responsible for his ouster.
Durrani also took on the advisers to Nawaz whose â€œill-adviceâ€ caused him the unceremonious departure from the Prime Minister House.
â€œNawaz Sharif Sahib you hired the most mediocre advisers. You rejected your most sincere, politically experienced and astute colleagues. Your advisers are immature, untutored in vision – your welfare and your role – they lost it for you. Pakistan is a complicated nation… they donâ€™t know,â€ went another tweet.
It added, â€œNawaz Sharif lost the opportunity of making Pakistan a social welfare state. I pray that Nawaz Sharif Sahib arrives home safely… and fires all his advisers.â€