Lahore: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) supremo Nawaz Sharif finally ended a four-year self-imposed exiled and landed in the country on Saturday. The chartered ‘Umeed-e-Pakistan’ aircraft transported about 164 individuals — comprising party leaders and journalists — from Dubai to the federal capital. He signed and filed appeals against his convictions in the Avenfield and Al-Azizia references, for which he was jailed before moving to London in 2019 because of health reasons.
Following a brief stay in Islamabad, he headed to Lahore, where he addressed a gathering of thousands at the Minar-e-Pakistan.
Nawaz Sharif said that revenge was not on his mind, adding that he wants all constitutional institutions to join hands to take Pakistan on road to progress and development.
“I don’t have the slightest wish for revenge,” he said. “All I wish for is to see Pakistan get rid of poverty and illiteracy.”
The 73-year-old veteran politician added: “I am meeting you after a long time, but my love for you remains intact. You have never betrayed me and I have never betrayed you.” He said that he served Pakistan with loyalty whenever he was given a chance and resolved the issues without hesitating from sacrifices. He regretted the “false” cases against him, his brother and former PM Shehbaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, and other PMLN leaders.
While reminding his supporters of his achievements as the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan became a nuclear power in his tenure while electricity load-shedding also ended during his previous government. “Do you remember those 18 hours of loadshedding? Who ended it?” he asked.
He then showed the bill as well, which has now skyrocketed due to the rupee-dollar parity and a rise in fuel prices.
The former PM stressed that “some wounds never heal”, saying that the wealth of this life may go away and come back with the blessings of God but the loved ones who pass away never come back,” he said while referring to the passing away of his mother and wife when he was facing the legal battles. He said that these women won’t be there to receive him at his home like they did in the past.
Talking about Pakistan’s nuclear tests on May 28, 1998, the former premier said that the then-United States president Bill Clinton and other world leaders had been pressuring and refraining him from the tests and offered him $5 billion in this regard but he refused the offer and made Pakistan a nuclear state. Without taking the name of deposed premier Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif asked: “Could he have dared to refuse the US president?”
“Are our [PMLN] governments toppled and rulings issued against us [for refusing the US and taking stance for the interest of Pakistan]?” the PMLN supremo questioned.
Nawaz Sharif said no one in Pakistani would be unemployed if his party was allowed to continue the “1990s momentum”.
“I was ousted because I didn’t allow the dollar rate to fluctuate,” he said. He lamented that due to the ongoing economic crisis, “one has to decide whether to pay electricity bills or take care of one’s children. People are committing suicide, and borrowing money to pay the bills.”
“This is why you ousted Nawaz Sharif?” the former prime minister asked while criticising his disqualification in 2017. “Pakistan was on its way to becoming an Asian tiger, we were preparing to ensure Pakistan’s inclusion in the G20. A lot of countries which were trailing us are now leading us. We have been left behind. Not only do we have to catch up with those countries but in fact have to surpass them.”
Nawaz Sharif also slammed the sit-ins staged by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). “I am addressing a political gathering after a gap of six years as I faced cases for two years. I have come today with electricity bills from May 2016 during my tenure as PM when there were sit-ins but we were busy doing our work. “You know who was orchestrating the sit-ins? […] But we ensured the provision of electricity to your homes despite the sit-ins,” Nawaz said while commenting on the sit-ins during his tenure. Moving on to the skyrocketing inflation, the PMLN supremo said that roti was being sold for Rs4, sugar at Rs50 per kilogramme and petrol at Rs60 per litre in his tenure.
“US dollar was at Rs104,” he said, adding that they did not let the local currency fall against the greenback.
Nawaz also hinted at mending the country’s ties with India, saying that “we can’t progress under conflict with the neighbours”. He said that Pakistan will have to move ahead “with grace and tactics” for the resolution of the Kashmir issue.
Earlier, fireworks marked his arrival at Iqbal Park in his power base of Lahore, where the streets were shrouded in green and yellow party banners, foreign media reported.
Sharif — who founded the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) party — was serving a prison sentence for graft when he left the country in 2018 seeking medical care in Britain, subsequently ignoring multiple court orders to return.