I was defeated by closing RTS, won’t keep quiet, none should try to mute me: Nawaz Sharif

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LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) Quaid Nawaz Sharif repeated his charge sheet against his political rival Prime Minister Imran Khan and his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government on the second consecutive day on Thursday.

Addressing a meeting of the PML-N Central Working Committee (CWC) via video link from London, he alleged that he was defeated in the 2018 general election by intentionally closing down the Result Transmission System (RTS) of National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) for hours. He alleged the results of the seats, won by his party, were changed during the ‘malfunctioning’ period of the RTS system. He announced that the opposition’s fight was not against Prime Minister Imran Khan but against those who had installed that incompetent, inefficient and corrupt government in the country.

“Imran Khan is a selected prime minister and we didn’t give any importance to him, but we ask questions from those who brought him by stealing the elections and mandate of people of Pakistan,” he said adding he could not stay quite and watch the present state of affairs anymore. “They will have to answer [my questions],” Nawaz said.

He said no one should try to ask him to remain silent now. He said he could not stay silent over the incumbent government’s “dual standards of accountability”.

“Nawaz Sharif is not made of the stuff that can stay silent on dual standards of accountability,” he said, adding that “no one should try to silence him”.

As he began his address, he spoke of how it had been a long time since such an address had taken place. “I am addressing you all after a long time. And in these two-and-a-half years we have all endured much.” “But it is with God’s grace we are seeing each other now,” Nawaz said.

“When I look at the state the country is in, it saddens me deeply,” the former prime minister said. “We were on such a great path to progress and look at where we are now.” Nawaz said he sees a world of a difference between the Pakistan of a few years ago and the one before us now. “I do not understand why this has happened.

“We were so prosperous until 2018. Our tenure lasted 2013-2018 and with your prayers and God’s mercy and your support from 2013-2017, I was prime minister,” he said. “Me and my team who are sitting here and also those not here, such as Shahbaz Sharif who is in jail, paying for crimes not committed – together, we were changing the fate of Pakistan.

“These are not empty words, you yourself have witnessed the fruits of our efforts,” Nawaz said. The PML-N supremo then began to list the “great achievements won” during the three years he was in power.

“We installed power projects, eradicated terrorism, the economy was soaring high, poverty was diminishing, gas was plentiful and people were employed,” he said. Nawaz said Pakistan “was looking to join the G20 countries”. “We had become a tiger in the South Asian region,” he said, adding: “The world was praising our progress.

“This is not me who is saying this. You all bear witness to this. The entire nation.” He criticised the PTI’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project in Peshawar, saying it has yet to actually take off despite the passage of six years.

“The buses burn, or the roof collapses, the lifts don’t work and how much did it all cost? “Our BRT projects – Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Multan – all cost less than Peshawar, in my estimate, and they are all working,” Nawaz said, adding that he can say with certainty that “no one would have seen such speeds that were witnessed in the projects PML-N completed”.

“Were these jinns who were doing this? It was us,” he said, as he continued to highlight PML-N’s various “achievements” over the years. He said the country’s growth rate in the party’s tenure stood at 5.8% and “now it is approaching -1.4%”.

Nawaz said the PML-N had kept the rupee rate “under control for four years” and claimed the party “would have brought it down below Rs100 per dollar even had the party come into power”.

He said that similarly, the prices of essential commodities were maintained. “We had left sugar prices at Rs50, whereas now they have doubled to Rs100. “If you cannot answer this question then ask those who are going hungry […] they can either eat or go to school or pay their electricity bills or buy medicines which are far out of their reach now.”

He said the PTI government had destroyed the country and made the lives of common citizens miserable through unprecedented price-hike as well as bad governance. Nawaz said he was in pain as the suppressed people of the country were in pain. He said that poor were unable to afford food and send their children to school these days.

“Is this what the ‘state of Madina’ looks like?” he questioned, adding that the PTI government had failed to fulfil its “tall promises”. Nawaz said the present rulers had destroyed Pakistan in every field. He asked the PTI government where were 10 million jobs that Imran Khan had promised to provide to people.

The PML-N supremo denounced the current law and order situation in the country, regretting how crimes including rape are on the rise. Nawaz said that the “ground realities show that people do not even have clothes or shoes to wear and are robbed of the joys of Eid.

“And you claimed you would provide 10 million jobs. Where are they now?” he said, adding that now “15 million people are out of jobs”. He also counted the party’s role on the defence front, claiming that due to their efforts, Pakistan had been made impenetrable. “Can anyone deny this?

“And today, we will not find even four countries who are unwilling to support us […] you could not even table a resolution [at the United Nations], you found no one out of 51 countries.” Nawaz went on to criticise what he termed the government’s bid to leave the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) ]and form a new bloc of countries.

“How do you make such tall claims when you have done nothing but led to the ruin of Pakistan?” he added, addressing the incumbent government.

“You have destroyed all our efforts with regard to Kashmir. Where is your diplomacy now?” asked Nawaz. He then asked party workers who were chanting in his support whether they truly sought to be on the right side of history.

“I am raising this flag now. Will you stand with me?” He said that if they will whole-heartedly support him, then he will “never let them down” and they will “find him steadfast”. “I will remain steadfast on our ideology. I have stepped into the battlefield to save our country. […] and every Pakistani has to participate in this struggle.”

“You must walk with me shoulder-to-shoulder,” he said to party workers. “The people of Pakistan are looking to you.” “You must fulfil your duty without any delay.” Earlier, addressing the meeting, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz said the government had planned to arrest her under 16 MPO, but the party would continue its struggle against the rulers. She categorically rejected any chances of dialogue with the incumbent government, saying he she did not accept the PTI government as a legitimate setup from day one; so there was no question of any talks with it. “This is a fake government,” she added.

The PML-N leader said that was for the first time in the history of Pakistan that Punjab had refused to bow before the illegal powers. She said the nation knew the truth and presently, besides the voters of PML-N, neutral segments of society were also standing with it in its struggle for the supremacy of people’s vote.

“Imran Khan, you should come forward and fight with us on your own instead of hiding behind the institutions,” she said. Imran Khan was unable to manage the state affairs and that was why he was telling institutions to deal with the crises, she added.

She regretted that the Islamabad High Court, instead of discussing the health reports of Nawaz Sharif, he was declared an absconder. She said a surgery of Nawaz Sharif was pending due to coronavirus pandemic and some people were saying that he was walking and dining in restaurants. She said he was a heart patient and questioned that if every heart patient in Pakistan was admitted to hospitals.

“The vote bank of PML-N is intact; the party is intact and its leaders are standing with the leadership,” she announced adding that in case she was arrested, the party would continue following the agenda. “Nawaz Sharif will lead the party from London,” she said.

She said that those who were trying to use underhanded tactics to pressurise the opposition would fail. Maryam said that the incumbent government was so weak that it would not be able to complete its tenure. “It will be sent packing with a single blow,” Maryam claimed.

“A time will come when the institutions would tell Imran Khan to face the opposition himself,” she said. Answering questions about the first rally of the newly formed Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), Maryam said that all decisions taken from the PDM platform would be fully implemented.

Murtaza Ali Shah adds from London: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif laughed off a ban on his speeches by Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), saying that bans in this age and day are not workable.

He was speaking briefly to the media outside Stanhope House (Hasan Nawaz’s office) after addressing the PML-N Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting. Moments after his speech, the TV watchdog issued a directive asking TV channels not to air the speeches of absconders and convicts – a reference to Nawaz Sharif.

When asked by the media about his reaction, Nawaz said “this is not the age and day of ban on the media. That time has passed a long time ago. We live in a modern era in which these bans are not effective.”

Earlier, addressing the CWC meeting, Nawaz said the PML-N had kept the rupee rate “under control for four years” and claimed the party “would have brought it down below Rs100 per dollar even had the party come into power”.

He said that similarly, the prices of essential commodities were maintained. “We had left sugar prices at Rs50, whereas now they have doubled to Rs100.”

“If you cannot answer this question then ask those who are going hungry […] they can either eat or go to school or pay their electricity bills or buy medicines which are far out of their reach now.”