–Ousted PM says his supporters keep reelecting him to power despite his ousters from office
–Shehbaz Sharif advises brother Nawaz to consult party workers over matters instead of ‘those new leaders merely concerned with designation and cars’
ISLAMABAD: Disqualified prime minister Nawaz Sharif was on Tuesday elected the president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) unopposed, reclaiming his position as the head of his party a day after his party’s lawmakers bulldozed the Amended Election (Reforms) Bill 2017 through the National Assembly amid strong protests of the opposition parties.
Addressing a gathering of charged party members at the Convention Centre, Sharif said his supporters kept reelecting him to power despite his ousters from the office.
He said the party members knew the reasons behind his disqualification as prime minister.
“If they were not able to find anything in Panama [Papers], they should have told people the truth that we found nothing in Panama, thus we are going to take him out with an Iqama.”
He said there is anger in his heart too — to say so otherwise would be hypocrisy.
Sharif thanked the people for repealing the law which barred disqualified politicians from holding office in a party. He said former military strongman General (r) Pervez Musharraf had reinstated this law after Ayub Khan first introduced it.
Talking about cases against democratic leaders, he said the case that led to his disqualification is similar to the one which led to the hanging of an elected prime minister, referring to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
However, “[the cases of those] who violated the Constitution remained honest and truthful”, claimed Sharif.
“I’m warning you, if we don’t try to change things then even Pakistan will not forgive us.” God helps those who help themselves, he added.
“I would like to thank the people for throwing this law back at their faces.”
Sharif asked the crowd to reflect on the incidents leading to the creation of Bangladesh and the reasons that “led to Pakistan regressing behind all independent countries around us”.
“We learned nothing from the fall of Dhaka,” he said, adding that Pakistan has not reflected on and fixed its problems.
All countries in the world keep changing their policies with time, and those who ignore changing dynamics and stick to the old practice time passes them by.
He said it is tragic that ‘we’ continue to do the same things that led to the breakup of the country.
“Despite being elected by the people thrice, I was disqualified. Not because of any corruption or malpractice but for not taking a salary from my son,” said the ousted premier.
The former prime minister narrated his democracy-friendly actions of the past, such as not disrupting the previous Pakistan People’s Party government in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and letting Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf form a government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa after the 2013 elections.
He said he had asked 12 questions in the lawyers’ convention but did not get a “single reply”.
Concluding his speech, Sharif said he is hopeful that the PML-N will fare even better in the 2018 elections, adding that the people will give their decision regarding [his] ‘eligibility’ then.
Interestingly, former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan left the venue during Sharif’s speech.
Earlier in the morning, PML-N leader Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry submitted Sharif’s papers for party president in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) while no one other candidate from the party contested the election.
PML-N’s election commissioner Chaudhry Jaffar Iqbal later announced Sharif as the unopposed party president during the meeting of the party’s general council. The crowd erupted in thunderous applause as soon as Sharif’s name was announced as the party president, amid chants of “prime minister Nawaz Sharif!”
Hundreds of members of the party’s general council, including Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, ministers, MNAs and senators attended the meeting.
Addressing the crowd, Prime Minister Abbasi termed the occasion a “historic day”.
The premier said he is proud to be among the few people who witnessed the moment Sharif took his place as the party chairman for the first time.
Abbasi presented an “open challenge to all the dictators and PPP” to compare the development work carried out by them with that of the PML-N.
“If our development [work] does not stand 100 per cent ahead of PPP’s, we will give our government up.”
‘ACCOUNTABILITY FOR NAWAZ SHARIF ONLY?’
Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif in his address said all political parties had “stood against us” and accused the PML-N of creating the law to facilitate one man.
“I ask them, why did they not say anything when in 1999 one man created the MLR [martial law regulation] and that went on for so many years.”
He claimed that Nawaz Sharif had kept his promise to the nation and brought electricity to the country. He said the decision to produce 3600MW of electricity was taken in 2015 and the first phase has been completed and providing cheap electricity to the people.
“I ask, is ehtasaab [accountability] for Nawaz Sharif only?”
He also advised his brother to consult his party workers over matters instead of ‘those new leaders merely concerned with designation and cars’.
“Call party leaders and workers for consultations and make decisions in light of those meetings,” he said.
He said all the provincial chapters of the PML-N elected Nawaz Sharif as president, leaving no chance for the opposition to show resistance.
‘NA ABOLISHED BLACK LAW’
Interior Ministry Ahsan Iqbal while addressing the gathering said the National Assembly had on Monday abolished the “black law” introduced during the regime of a dictator that barred leaders from being elected to party offices.
He said before the clause was made part of the law in 2002, no law had anything to do with posts of a political party.
“The clause was added so that Nawaz Sharif could be barred from leading PML-N just like they wanted to bar Benazir Bhutto from leading PPP,” he said.
He questioned why the PPP did not support the passage of the bill ending Musharraf’s political ordinance when the bill was intended to reinstate the law introduced by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto “after he had fought martial law”.
Iqbal said the PML-N has faced all the trials and tribulations that have come its way.
Addressing Nawaz Sharif, he said: “You taught us that if we need to bring stability to this country then we have to go through the legal system, no matter what the situation is.”
On Monday, the PML-N took full advantage of its position as the ruling party as President Mamnoon Hussain signed the controversial Election Act 2017 into law hours after it was bulldozed through the National Assembly amid pandemonium on the opposition benches.
The law was passed to allow the party to re-elect the disqualified former prime minister as party chief, on the eve of a party convention called for the express purpose of electing Nawaz Sharif to the post.
The party also reposed its complete confidence in Sharif’s leadership when members of its Central Working Committee (CWC) also approved an amendment to the party constitution, removing the bar on disqualified members from contesting the election to any party office.
The bill was cleared by the lower house within minutes amidst ugly scenes, as opposition members gathered around the speaker’s podium, chanting slogans, tearing up copies of the bill and flinging them towards the dais.
Sharif had relinquished the position of PML-N chief after his ouster from power under the July 28 verdict of the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case.