Pakistan’s former Prime Minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif has accused the country’s army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa of toppling his government, pressuring the judiciary, and installing the current government of Prime Minister Imran Khan in the 2018 elections.
Sharif was speaking via video link from London to a gathering of tens of thousands of people in the eastern city of Gujranwala organised by Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) — an alliance of 11 opposition parties to kick-off a countrywide protest campaign aiming to oust Khan’s government.
“General Qamar Javed Bajwa, you packed up our government, which was working well, and put the nation and the country at the alter of your wishes,” Sharif told the gathering.
“He (Bajwa) rigged the 2018 elections and imposed incapable Imran Khan on the nation. Gen. Bajwa is a direct culprit and he will have to answer this.”
Bajwa is directly responsible for the miseries and sufferings of the people by imposing an inept PTI government, the Pakistani Muslim League (Nawaz) chief alleged.
He also accused the Inter-Services Intelligence of being behind the fall of his government and said the entire episode happened with the help of ISI chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed.
“You (Hameed) will have to answer this too,” he said, accusing the military and the ISI of “installing” their “puppet government by bringing Imran Khan into power”.
“I ask the people present in the rally, don’t be afraid to mention the name who imposed this incapable Imran on us,” the three-time prime minister said.
Referring to the military, 70-year-old Sharif said, “You can label me a traitor if you want, seize my properties, file false cases against me but I will continue to speak for my people.”
“They call us traitors…this is not new…PML-N’s mandate was stolen and a nalayak (incapable) and puppet Imran Khan was brought into power,” he said.
Friday’s event was the first power show of the PDM since its formation last month to oust the “selected” PTI government. The PDM’s struggle against the Imran Khan government is widely perceived as being anti-army.
Sharif also questioned why the violators of Constitution don’t get any punishment, while an elected prime minister is not allowed to complete his tenure.
Sharif became the prime minister in Pakistan for a record three times, but every time he was forced to quit in the middle of his term.
The former premier also said there is “a state above a state” in Pakistan and questioned, “Who is responsible for the two governments in this country?” The PML-N leader, however, made it clear that he was not against the army but some individuals who violated the Constitution.
“I salute my army men who sacrifice their lives for the country,” he said.
During the event, PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman declared that the PTI government would be sent packing by December in the wake of the opposition’s movement.
Maryam Nawaz, the daughter and political heir of Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto, the son of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who heads her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), also addressed the gathering.
Both criticised the Khan government for what they called bad governance and mismanagement of the economy.
Sharif, whose Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is the main opposition party, was sacked by the Supreme Court in 2017 on corruption charges.
He has been living in London since November last year after he was allowed by the courts and the government to go there for eight weeks for medical treatment. But he did not come back, while his lawyers told the court that he was still recovering.
The Islamabad High Court through newspaper advertisements has asked Sharif to appear before it by November 24 to avoid being declared a “proclaimed offender”.
This is not the first time that Sharif has gone after the military leadership. During the opposition’s multiparty conference last month, he had bitterly criticised the army, saying there was “a state above the state in the country”. However, he had refrained from naming anyone.
Since his anti-army rant, the PTI government has banned the media to broadcast his speeches.
Khan, who came to power on an anti-graft platform and denies the army helped him win, said on Friday he wasn’t afraid of the opposition’s campaign, which was aimed at blackmailing him to drop corruption cases against their leaders.
With inputs from agencies