Nawaz Sharif's Candid Interview: The Indian Express
June 11, 2007: The Indian Express
• Hello, and welcome to Walk the Talk. I’m Shekhar Gupta, in London’s Hyde Park, and my guest this week is perhaps the world’s most prominent political exile — not just the most prominent, but perhaps the most politically active, and the most cheerful — Mr Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister of Pakistan. Welcome to Walk the Talk.
Thank you, for your very kind words. We have met after a long time.
• How does the picture look to you back home in Pakistan?
That’s very disturbing. Pakistan, unfortunately, is not in good hands. It’s not in good shape. Musharraf is mishandling Pakistan. And one by one, he is hitting at the very roots of the country. For example, he subverted the Constitution, abrogated the Constitution, and staged a coup against my government, which was a democratically elected government with two-thirds majority. It was the first time in the history of Pakistan that any single party got a two-thirds vote in the Parliament.
• But he (Gen Musharraf) says it was so corrupt that the people of Pakistan were happy that he got rid of it.
There’s no evidence of any corruption against my government or against me. Look here, now the Chief Justice of Pakistan, who has been suspended and removed by Mr Musharraf unconstitutionally, gave a verdict against this government saying, ‘We smell corruption in this transaction.’ And then Transparency International said that Pakistan is one of the prominent countries that have a very high corruption rate. So these two are very glaring examples of corruption that is rampant today in Pakistan. So if he says that (my government was corrupt) he is absolutely wrong.
• When you were removed, there was no public outcry, no protests. That’s what surprises me also. You had just won with a two-thirds majority, and someone comes and removes you, and nothing happens, not a whimper.
I think that’s out of fear of the army. That was out of the fear of the uniform, which has now dissipated to a very large extent.
•So there was a fear of the uniform?
Yes, it is also surprising that when the late Bhutto was hanged nobody came out on to the streets. I think even then there was this fear of the uniform. But the fear of the uniform has not been a good thing in Pakistan and the army’s intervention — and intervention every now and then, I think — has been damaging for Pakistan.
• But the fear of the army should be for the enemy. Not for its own people.
Well, our generals have been trying to scare our own people more than the enemy. So they felt that with the uniform they could intimidate their foes, intimidate politicians, scare the people.
• But you think now that this fear is gone?
To a very large extent, which is a very good thing for democracy.
• So what are you fighting for? You are fighting for becoming the prime minister again, obviously?
I’m not looking for prime ministership. I am not looking to form a cabinet or a government. I think that, more important than forming a government, more important than even fighting the elections, is to put the country back on the rails, to go back to the Constitution of 1973, the late Mr Bhutto’s Constitution, to shut the doors on the army, on the generals, and to come into politics.
Forever. And that requires courage. That requires struggle, patience.
• So there’s going to be no give and take this time. Because in Pakistan it is always said that there is this uneasy compact between the establishment, the army, and the politician. No longer?
I think it is a very clear departure from the past, where people used to strike a deal with the generals and do some give and take and then make compromises on principles. I think now it is principles that are more important than any political experience.
• Even you have done it the first time, when Ghulam Ishaq Khan was president.
No, I did not. I never entered into a deal with Ghulam Isa Khan.
• I have been a journalist for nearly three decades. But the most fascinating moments of my reporting years were while accompanying you on that train ride from Islamabad to Lahore. You had been dismissed by Ghulam Ishaq Khan and your supporters on the train were playing Faiz’s Hum dekhenge. And if you remember correctly, that is the song around which the movement against Zia was built. And I thought how funny it was. You were known to be close to Zia, and now your supporters are following the same tactic.
Well, I have very fond memories of your visit to Pakistan. Those were very good times. We were trying to strengthen the roots of democracy in Pakistan. And unfortunately these power-hungry generals try to derail democracy. Now, for example, in the 60 years of Pakistan’s history, 33 years have gone to the army. In fact we have dictatorship in Pakistan for 33 years and the rest of the 27 years we had democratic governments, with perhaps 15 to17 prime ministers. And three or four generals of Pakistan ruled for 33 years. So I think it’s very unfortunate. Our country was not created by Qaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah to be ruled by the army or the generals. It was meant to be a democratic country, ruled by the people of Pakistan. That is the tragedy.
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