Thursday Jul 12, 2018
LONDON: Former premier Nawaz Sharif said Wednesday he was leaving behind his ailing wife, Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, in Allah's protection and returning to the country regardless of whether he was "taken to prison or gallows".
Speaking at a news conference in London, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo noted that he wished to see his wife opening her eyes again and requested the nation to pray for her recovery.
The ex-prime minister explained that he was returning "despite seeing a prison cell in front of me […] I am returning to fulfill the promise of giving respect to the vote".
Stressing that he would not abandon his nation, he said he would not stop now regardless of whether he was taken to prison or gallows.
Speaking of the Avenfield reference verdict, Sharif commented that it was written in the verdict that he had been absolved of corruption charges.
"It had to be written in the verdict that no evidence of corruption could be found against me," he said. "Is there any Pakistani whose three generations had to face such sort of accountability?"
Sharif said the Pakistani people once again saw the "real face" of justice. "Having searched in several countries of the world, it had to be written that there was no evidence of corruption [against me]."
He maintained that he respected every institution of Pakistan, noting that he made the country a nuclear-capable state.
"I have immense respect for 'Ghazis' and 'Shuhada' of Pakistani forces in my heart," the former premier said. "The martyrs sacrificed their today for our tomorrow."
He said that they greatly loved these 'Ghazis' and 'Shuhada', and they could sacrifice everything for these sons of the soil.
The former prime minister, however, said he had set out bearing the flag of "give respect to vote. I'm coming to pay off the debt of the nation that thrice elected me the prime minister".
Sharif said all this had to change if they had to stay alive and progress. "Not only does all of this need to be changed but it should be changed soon for we do not have much time."
He said that they were getting this chance for a change after two weeks, adding that the forthcoming election would decide their fate.
"Every Pakistani will have to hold his vote in hand and think," Sharif said, adding that he would address the people at Lahore airport on July 13. He urged the masses to also set out of their homes on July 25 and announce a verdict that makes the world pay a tribute to them.
"My daughter Maryam is also going to prison with me," he said, adding that he was ready to face any difficulty or hardship for the sake of the country.
"Brave masses should set out of their homes like lions; [former chief minister of Punjab] Shehbaz will lead the crowd to the [Lahore] airport," Sharif stated.
"The dictator who imprisoned judges is roaming free and no one has the courage to bring him and put him on trial," Sharif criticised, adding that the disrespect of vote had made a mockery of the country.
"Herding the masses like a pack of cattle is unacceptable."
The ex-PM said the July 25 election was going to be the biggest referendum.
"How did the petition, which was discarded after being labelled as useless, become sacred?"
"What action was taken against Wajid Zia, who issued a tender worth several million to the relatives in the name of investigations?" he questioned.
Sharif, who is currently in London to tend to his ailing wife, is expected to return to the country on July 13, a decision he made after being sentenced to 11 years in prison by an accountability court in the Avenfield properties reference case.
A fine worth £8 million (Rs1.3 billion) was also slapped on the former premier as part of the ruling, whereas his daughter, Maryam Nawaz, was sentenced to eight years with a £2 million fine (Rs335 million).
Additionally, Captain (retd) Safdar, the former first daughter's husband and Sharif's son-in-law, was given a year-long sentence without any fines.
The National Accountability Bureau has arranged two helicopters for shifting former PM Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam to Islamabad, after arresting them upon arrival in the country, sources informed Geo News.
According to the sources, one chopper would be at Lahore airport, while the other would be in Islamabad, and the father-daughter duo would be arrested upon landing at either of the two airports.
Interestingly, the helicopter Sharif had used during his tenure as prime minister would be the one to take him to Adiala prison.
NAB has reportedly constituted a 16-member team to arrest Sharif and Maryam upon their arrival in Pakistan. The team comprises nine officers of the accountability bureau, while the rest are police force personnel.
Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam are expected to leave London today evening, and are slated to land in Pakistan around 6pm Friday.
COVER PHOTO: Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif appears at a news conference at a hotel in London, Britain, July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay