As the All Parties Conference (APC) kicked off Sunday, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and PPP chairman Asif Zardari called for a change in the country’s political status quo. Country’s major opposition parties came together to devise an anti-government strategy at the APC hosted by the PPP at a five-star hotel here in the federal capital. Addressing through video-link from
London, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif said that the opposition’s struggle was not against Prime Minister Imran Khan but those who brought him into power through the 2018 elections.
The speech marked the deposed prime minister’s political comeback after more than a year. He has been in the UK since November last year for medical treatment.
“Our foremost priority should be removing this selected government and this system. Our struggle is not against Imran Khan,” said Nawaz. “Today, our struggle is against those who installed Imran Khan and who manipulated elections to bring an incapable man like him into power and thus, destroyed the country.”
Prior to a recess for lunch, the speakers including PML-N’s Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif and PPP’s Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari were united in underscoring the “need for a plan of action”. The opposition, however, has yet to announce what it is.
Nawaz started by thanking PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for hosting the conference as well as Zardari, saying he would not forget the love with which the former president spoke to him a day earlier.
“I am thankful to the organisers of the conference for giving me the opportunity to talk. Even though I am away from my country, I know very well what condition the country and the people are in. I believe this is a decisive turn; it is necessary to protect democracy […] and take fearless decisions.”
He also repeated the opposition’s allegation that the National Accountability Bureau, with the connivance of PTI, was carrying out only “selective accountability”.
“If we don’t do it [take a step] today, when will we?” asked Nawaz.
“I agree with Maulana that we need to make this conference purposeful or people will be disappointed.
“Pakistan has been constantly deprived of a democratic system […] When the vote is dishonoured, the entire democratic system becomes meaningless. When it is decided before the election process as to who will win and who will lose, then it can be guessed how the public is betrayed and how the public’s mandate is stolen.”
Pakistan has become a laboratory of “such experiments”, added Nawaz. “Every child knows that no prime minister has been allowed to complete five years in power.”
All dictators have spent multiple years while premiers have hardly been allowed to complete their term, he said. “When a dictator was first brought into the courtroom for violating the Constitution, you saw what happened. Court gave dictators the right to play with the Constitution and acquitted someone who broke the Constitution twice […] Whereas the ones who follow the Constitution are still in jail.”
Nawaz said former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani once pointed to “a state within a state” in Pakistan. “It is saddening that the situation has escalated to a state above the state. This parallel government illness is the root-cause of our problems.”
Speaking about the 2018 elections, he said the primary reason for the current problems were those people who “hijacked the people’s mandate by putting inexperienced people in power”. “This is a violation of the Constitution. Has anyone given a thought to what a grave crime it is to steal the people’s mandate?”
“Can I ask why the Results Transmission System (RTS) was closed for hours during election, why polling agents were thrown out during counting? Why was dhandli done, on whose directives and why? The secretary Election Commission should answer and all those responsible will have to answer.”
Nawaz alleged the government has enforced a “martial law” . “Criminals are allowed to make amendments to the Constitution […] the people’s premier is expelled and his family is insulted.
“This conference should bring forth a concrete plan of action for saving democracy, a concrete policy should be made for solving the problem of ‘a parallel state’. “I again urge this all-party conference to go beyond its traditional ways and form a plan of action.”
Former President Asif Ali Zardari, speaking on the occasion said that they will send government packing to restore democracy and save the country. Foundation of a country is laid on democracy, after which prosperity follows, he added. Asif Ali Zardari was the first to deliver the speech at the PPP-hosted APC via video link, held here at local hotel on Sunday.
Asif Zardari also thanked PML-N supremo for accepting PPP’s invitation and said that Benazir Bhutto signed charter of democracy with Nawaz Sharif and both parties cooperated to remove Musharraf from office and pass 18th amendment.
PPP Co-Chairman Zardari said that he would probably be the first person to land in prison after this all parties conference. “After this APC I will be the first person in jail, but I request Maulana Fazlur Rehman please come to jail to meet me I will wait for you,” he maintained.
He welcomed Maryam, PML-N vice-president and daughter of Nawaz Sharif, and said he was happy to see her at the conference. “We have seen the difficulties she has faced and we can understand because my own sister has gone to jail and my wife went to jail […] We pay tribute to her and we are with you, and will keep fighting for your cause and you will keep fighting for ours, I am sure.” The ex-president said he was “fully aware of the hardships you’ve been through and respect that”.
Asif Zardari remarked “This is my message that we are not here to derail the government, we want to restore the democracy. I must say to APC, please decide and come up with a way forward, to strengthen the democracy as first foundation is democracy.”
PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif, addressing the APC, said that the dictatorships in the country’s history had not only put a black mark on democracy but also damaged the judiciary.
Talking about the 2018 elections, he said: “Remember when a selected government came into power and the selected prime minister promised the nation that the discrepancy in the elections, the disappearance of the RTS system, and the pre-engineering of election results would be investigated.”