Nawaz to land in Islamabad — on Sept 10
By M. Ziauddin: August 31, 2007 - Dawn
LONDON, Aug 30: Announcing that he along with brother Shahbaz Sharif will return to Pakistan on Sept 10, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif advised President General Pervez Musharraf to hand over power to the Senate chairman forthwith and go home.
He said his entourage would land at Islamabad and then proceed to Lahore taking the GT road.
Mr Nawaz Sharif made this announcement at a crowded press conference here on Thursday in the lobby of a four-star hotel in Central London. He was accompanied by Mr Shahbaz Sharif, Raja Zafarul Haq, Iqbal Zafar Jhagra and Ahsan Iqbal.
Mr Nawaz said his party in consultation with the All Pakistan Democratic Movement (APDM) had decided that the time had now come for the exiled PML-N leadership to return home and launch a decisive struggle against what he called the eight-year dictatorship and pave the way for genuine and lasting democracy.
Answering questions, he said he was not afraid of what he said the empty threats of being arrested on landing or re-packed in a plane and sent to Saudi Arabia.
He dismissed these threats as trite and sort of whistling in the dark by a terrified government on its way out.
When asked if he had a plan B to cope with the situation in case he was arrested, Mr Nawaz said the people would then come out on the streets and, under the banner of APDM, would carry on the struggle until the dictator was finally sent home.
He said he was going back home to help his countrymen in their ongoing struggle to restore the rule of law and the 1973 Constitution as it stood on October 12 1999, and bring about a balance in the powers of various institutions of the state and finally send the army back to barracks for all times to come.
Strongly condemning efforts by PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto to what he said save ‘a military dictator on his way out’, Mr Nawaz said Ms Bhutto was violating the Charter of Democracy which she had countersigned along with other members of ARD.
He sidestepped a question about how did he reconcile with the idea of sitting with Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s JUI which is a partner of the dictatorial set-up and at the same time criticising Ms Bhutto for negotiating a deal for transfer of power from the army to an elected civilian set-up.
When asked would he not be destablising the country by going back and launching street agitation, Mr Nawaz said it was Gen Musharraf who had destabilised the country by usurping power from an elected government and then ruling all these years illegitimately, caring two hoots about the Constitution and the rule of law.
In his opening remarks, Nawaz said Musharraf’s uniform was not the issue, “the issue is his
illegal rule, the issue is those illegal amendments he made in the Constitution to prolong his rule and the issue is his pathetic attempts to get himself elected for another five years”.
Answering a question about Musharraf’s insistence that he should abide by the deal he had signed and which was underwritten by an eminent personality of Saudi Arabia, Nawaz said that such utterings only betrayed the contemptuous attitude of Musharraf towards the Supreme Court ruling which had said that he could come back any time and had instructed the government not to put any impediments in the way of his return.
When asked how would the army as an institution react to his return, Nawaz said the rank and file of the army also wanted restoration of the rule of law “and since we are on the side of the 160 million Pakistanis all of whom want Musharraf to go, they (the rank and file of the army) would have no reservations about my return home.”
When asked if despite his opposition Musharraf got himself elected for a five-year term from the present assemblies, or for that matter from the next one, what would happen, he said “anything can happen, the country would be severely destabilised and the people will come out on the streets in protest”.
He said his party would consider the return to the party fold of all those who would publicly announce not to vote for Musharraf and those who in the last eight years did not do anything to harm the interests of PML-N or had not actively participated in persecuting members of the party.
Later, senior party members said that the central executive committee would meet on Friday to chalk out details of plans for departure from London and reception plan in Islamabad, Lahore and other cities which the Nawaz caravan would touch on the way.
“We will decide tomorrow which of the leaders now in exile with the Sharifs, like Ghous Ali Shah etc, would accompany the Sharif brothers and also invite those international mediapersons who would like to accompany the entourage to contact the party’s headquarters at the earliest.” said a PML-N source
Since there would be limited seats on the commercial flight the Sharif brothers would be taking, the party is expected to allocate seats on the first come first served basis, they said.