- Nawaz says people clearly reject verdict, want respect of vote
- Nawaz Sharif receive historic welcome in Lahore as well
- Masses greet ousted leader; extend their complete support
The caravan of former prime minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif arrived in Lahore on late Saturday night from Gujranwala, the fourth and the last day of the Pakistan Muslim League-N rally, which had set off from Islamabad on August 9.
On reaching Lahore, Nawaz Sharif was accorded a historic welcome as thousands of people, party workers and supporters pulled to streets to greet their leader and extending him their support. They were chanting slogans and carried placards, banners and posters of the former prime minister.
“What am I seeing today in Lahore. I have never seen anything like this before. You made me a prime minister, and five people disqualified me,” Nawaz Sharif said, as he started his address to the mammoth crowd at Daata Darbar.
“Tell me, is their verdict acceptable to you?” he asked, to loud shouts of dissent. “I have come to you after four days on the road. Everyone in Pakistan is protesting Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification,” he said. “Those who disqualified Nawaz Sharif, are they themselves qualified to make that decision,” he said.
“Nawaz Sharif was not involved in any corruption or any misappropriation. They disqualified me for not taking a salary from my son – what is that to you? Whether I take something from my son or not, what is that to you,” he asked. “They have been treating your prime ministers the same way for the past 70 years,” he said. “Is this acceptable to you,” he said with big “no” from the crowd.
“Is the Pakistan of 2017 not better than the Pakistan of 2013,” he asked, turning again to his achievements as a leader. “Shouldn’t Nawaz Sharif have been praised for what he achieved?” he asked. “Shouldn’t the 200 million of this country hold dominion over its affairs?” he continued, again to resounding cheers of “yes!”
“We will bring a system that will give justice to whoever has been wronged. We will dispense justice in 90 days,” he said. “We will need to make new rules. We will need to change the constitution. But we will change the system,” he promised. “I have come out for justice, not for power. I have come not for my rule, but for your rule over this country,” he said.
“Swear your loyalty to me, but swear truly. Tell me, what you swear to, will you fulfill?” he asked, receiving loud cheers in response. “Will you stand with me as we bring a revolution to Pakistan,” he asked. “I will never forget the love I have received on this trip. I promise to bring forth my new programme on August 14, and I have full faith you will back me when I do,” he said.
Addressing his followers and supporters at Shahdara, Nawaz Sharif said that his disqualification verdict was not accepted by the masses and together with the people change will be brought to Pakistan. “You have to support me. Promise that you will support Nawaz Sharif,” he said.
He said that he would not sit with ease and neither would the people sit at ease till betterment was brought to the country. “I have come from Islamabad, and all along the route people rejected the verdict,” he said. “The case started with Panama Papers, and I was ousted over an iqama,” he said, referring to the verdict.
Addressing his supporters and party workers at Muridke, Nawaz Sharif said that the passion of people would bring about a revolution and the sanctity of vote would be restored. He said that such a large gathering was a sign of defeat of those who ousted an elected prime minister and those who kept the country hostage for the last 70 years.
“This system has to be changed and the respect of your vote will have to be restored,” he said. “It is my commitment with you that if your enthusiasm sustains, Pakistan will touch the heights of progress in a few years,” he said. “We will bring about a change and revolution. Will you support Nawaz Sharif,” he asked the sloganeering people, and got a big “yes” in response.
“This country does not belong to a few people, but to the whole nation and we all shall build it and make it strong and respectable. You have trusted me and I shall never betray your trust,” he pledged. Nawaz said that he enjoyed the approval of millions of people and premiership was not his goal. “I have expectations of the people of Muridke that they would support the truth,” he said.
“I am leaving Muridke after making a decision that in a few days, it would be decided that this country is not a territory of only a few people and it is the country of more than 200 million people,” he said and expressed his joy on the welcome by the people of Muridke and said he witnessed the same enthusiasm everywhere.
“The decision to disqualify me was pre-planned,” he also told the gathering. “It is about time the public’s votes are valued,” he said. The cavalcade made its first stopover at Kamoke, as eager supporters gathered on the route in hundreds to greet him. In Lahore, the locals decorated Shahdara Chowk and other venues with posters and banners of Nawaz Sharif.
ARREST OUTSIDE SHRINE: A suspicious person was arrested outside the Daata Darbar on Saturday, police said, near a stage set to greet Nawaz Sharif upon his arrival in Lahore. The arrested person was transferred to an undisclosed location for interrogation, the police said.
Hassaan Ahmad also contributed to this report.