Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who returned to the country after four years of self-imposed exile in London, said that he has “no desire for revenge” against those who had wronged him and appealed for the support of all constitutional institutions for the “betterment of people”.
After his highly-anticipated return, Nawaz addressed a large gathering of his party workers and leaders at Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore, accompanied by his daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif and others, reported Dawn.
His speech focused more on ‘rebuilding Pakistan’ where he called for good relations with neighbours, without mentioning India, and harmony among all constitutional institutions and political players. He asserted that he would not “seek revenge” against people allegedly involved in his ouster in 2017.
“Tell me… who are they who separated me from my family and the people of Pakistan? We are those who built Pakistan. We made Pakistan an atomic power. We brought an end to load-shedding and brought prosperity,” claimed the elder Sharif.
His remarks mark a shift in his party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which has sought accountability from former Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and ex-ISI chief Faiz Hamid, along with former chief justices Saqib Nisar and Asif Saeed Khosa in their alleged involvement in ensuring the fall of the PML-N government.
‘Pakistan’s constitutional institutions, political parties and all other stakeholders need to work together to deal with the challenges we are facing today. Without this, our country will not progress. We will have to figure out why the country is facing such a situation. Let me make it clear that we will have to follow the Constitution to move forward,” said Nawaz in his speech.
Nawaz to restore appeal against convictions
The three-time former PM was convicted in the Avenfield Apartments and Al-Azizia corruption cases. As he returned to Islamabad on Saturday, Nawaz signed applications that will be filed in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to appeal against his convictions.
A case on the matter is likely to be heard on October 24, a PML-N lawyer told Dawn. Nawaz’s legal team will also present a petition seeking protective bail. The PML-N supremo will himself appear before an accountability court on the same day.
Nawaz was convicted in the Avenfield and Al-Azizia cases and was declared a proclaimed offender in the Toshakhana vehicle case, which is pending before an Islamabad accountability court. His daughter Maryam and her husband Captain Safdar Awan were also convicted in 2018 in the Avenfield case.
Although an IHC division bench cleared him in the Avenfield case, his absconder status means that Nawaz has not been fully exonerated despite the court observing a lack of substantial evidence against him.
Imran Khan’s party criticises ‘VVIP protocol’ for Nawaz
Meanwhile, former PM Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has sharply criticised the ‘VVIP protocol’ given to the elder Sharif upon his return to the country, alleging that federal resources were used to manage the return of a ‘convicted absconder’.
PTI secretary general Omar Ayub Khan said the convict was being unjustly and unlawfully facilitated in everything. “A convicted prisoner got VVIP protocol and the State Room opened at Islamabad Airport to receive him,” he said.
The party further claimed that the people of Lahore had “completely rejected” the PML-N and its leader’s homecoming. “Never in the history of Pakistan, a convicted absconder has been welcomed like this,” said senior PTI leader Moonis Elahi.
Nawaz left for London in November 2019 after the Lahore High Court granted him four-week permission to go abroad for his treatment. He was serving a seven-year imprisonment at Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail in the Al-Azizia Mills case when he was allowed to proceed to London in 2019 on “medical grounds”.
The PML-N supremo is likely to face a host of legal challenges before embarking on his election campaign to boost his party’s chances in the upcoming general elections in January next year.
(with agency inputs)