Pakistan’s former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has blamed army chief General Qamar Bajwa for toppling his government and installing Imran Khan in his place.
Sharif was addressing an election rally in Gujranwala on Friday night via a video link from London. It was his first public rally as the leader of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), the newly-formed joint opposition alliance.
Sharif accused Bajwa and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt General Faiz Hameed of rigging elections. He said the two (Army and ISI) removed his government, suppressed the media, judiciary and victimized opposition politicians.
Much of Sharif’s speech was not covered by TV news channels due to a ban by the country’s broadcast regulator that disallowed the airing of speeches, statements and interviews of proclaimed offenders and absconders. People, however, attended the rally in thousands. One estimate put the number of people attending the rally at around 20,000.
Pakistan Muslim League (N) vice-president Maryam Nawaz arrived at the rally in Gujranwala around 9pm, local time, followed by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.
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Most political analysts believe the PDM’s opening rally, held in an open stadium in Gujranwala in biting cold, was a success.
“I hold you (Bajwa) responsible for all the mess you have created. We are seeing unemployment, unprecedented inflation,” said Sharif.
Sharif added, “Call me a traitor. Call me a rebel. Make me a convict. Label me a hijacker. Seize my properties. File false cases against me, but Nawaz Sharif will continue to speak for his people.”
Sharif said that during his time as prime minister, the government stood tall with the nuclear tests that it conducted in response to the tests carried out by India. “But we saw Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visit us and talk to us (in 2015)”, he added.
Sharif told his audience that the comments of former Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the visitors’ book at Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore must be read. “What beautiful sentiments he expressed,” recalled Sharif, adding, “Wasn’t that a better Pakistan?”
Taking on the current PM, Sharif said that the source of the funding behind Khan’s property should be investigated.