ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s former Premier Nawaz Sharif on Saturday blamed the country’s security establishment for conspiring against his administration ahead of the 2018 general elections and bringing Prime Minister Imran Khan to power.

In an unprecedented development, he accused the sitting army chief and director-general of the Inter-Services Intelligence of driving him out of power, claiming that his government was otherwise performing well.

Sharif, who is on a medical bail and currently seeking treatment in London, was addressing an anti-government rally organized by the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) in Gujranwala via video link.

Earlier, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader had made similar statements, claiming there was a “state above the state” in Pakistan. 

However, this is the first time he has named serving army officers, though the country’s top military brass had requested politicians not to drag them into politics only a few weeks ago.

Sharif was disqualified from politics by the country’s superior judiciary in July 2017 and was later convicted by an accountability court on corruption charges that he vehemently denies.

Local courts have already issued his arrest warrants and directed the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government to bring him back to face more corruption references against him.

Last month, opposition parties formed the PDM alliance and decided to launch an anti-government campaign by using the platform.

The alliance plans to hold public gatherings across the country in the next several weeks, and Friday’s Gujranwala rally, which brought together leading opposition politicians, was arranged to kick off the political campaign across the country.

Sharif’s daughter and political heir-apparent, Maryam Nawaz, also addressed the gathering, saying no one should be allowed to oust the country’s democratically elected leaders.

“Governments should come through your vote,” she told thousands of people gathered at a stadium in Gujranwala, “and nobody else should have the right to dislodge an elected administration. You have to do the accountability, and if somebody else does this, then you should have to deal with them.”

“When the vote is not honored,” she continued while criticizing the ruling PTI administration, “then the public has to suffer like you are suffering today. Imran Khan has been trumpeting about corruption, but you all will be shocked when stories of his corruption come out in the public.”

The PML-N vice president also criticized the prime minister for making repeated statements that his government and state institutions were on the same page, saying: “Let me remind you that it doesn’t take much time to turn over the page.”

The PDM rally was also attended by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the top Pakistan Peoples Party leader, who focused on rising inflation and criticized the government’s economic policies.

“People are worried, and the economy has nosedived,” he said. “Is this the change the PTI promised? The change is that unemployment, inflation and poverty have hit a historic high today.”

He also alleged that a one-sided accountability drive was being carried out in the country.

“We want an end to corruption, equality of law and accountability. You can hold former presidents and prime ministers accountable, but there should also be accountability of judges and generals on corruption charges,” he maintained.

Maulana Fazlur Rahman of the Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam party and the president of the opposition PDM alliance also spoke on occasion, predicting a political change in the country in the foreseeable future.

“The days of fake rulers are numbered as all democratic forces of Pakistan have launched the movement,” he said. “The rulers will not be in power until December this year.”

“Our struggle will continue until the supremacy of the constitution [prevails] and there is an apology [on the part of] the institutions,” he added. 

“Countries are run through responsibility and commitment, not through confrontation, and we will achieve that target by making a collective effort.”

The government formally announced that the opposition alliance could hold its gatherings at specifically designated spots. Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz said the PTI administration had allowed the rallies as “protest is the right of every political party.”

PM Khan’s PTI party came into power in August 2018 after defeating all major opposition parties. The opposition alliance has, however, said the party won a rigged election, which the government denies.

So far, there has been no official response to the allegations made by opposition parties during the rally.



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