By MUNIR AHMED, Associated Press
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday insisted that his removal from office did not mean his future in politics was over, as he plans to go head with a rally this week and fight a legal battle to reverse his disqualification.
“I don’t want reinstatement for myself. I am struggling to ensure the rule of law in Pakistan,” he said in a meeting with journalists in Islamabad.
Sharif said his legal experts will soon file a review petition against the July 28 Supreme Court order that ousted him from power for concealing assets — specifically, that his son’s Dubai-based company listed a monthly salary for him. Sharif has repeatedly said he never received any of that money.
He said that he was determined to travel the following day to his powerbase, the eastern of city of Lahore, despite a deadly bombing there Monday which killed one person and wounded 30 others.
“I am going to my home. Do I not have a right to go to my home?” asked Sharif.
According to Malik Mohammad, a spokesman in Punjab where Lahore is the provincial capital, security arrangements for Sharif’s rally have finalized. Sharif plans to spend at least two nights in as many cities along the Grand Trunk Road while leading the rally from Islamabad.
Ahmed said police were still investigating who was behind the Monday bombing.
Sharif said he wanted to start a debate, in parliament and public, to discuss why no elected prime minister has complete their full term in Pakistan, which has been ruled by army generals for more than half of its 70-year history.
When asked whether the army had influenced the judiciary against him, Sharif said “let’s leave this question for later.”
Sharif has a history of rocky relations with the military, and he was cautious about commenting on the sensitive issue of civil-military relations. He insisted he was a victim of a conspiracy, but he avoided a direct answer when asked who conspired against him.
“You will know the answers to these questions soon,” he said.
Sharif’s removal plunged Pakistan into political turmoil but parliament in less than a week elected senior lawmaker Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as the country’s new prime minister. Sharif’s party initially wanted Abbasi to serve as an interim premier for 45 days until Sharif’s younger brother, Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab, secures a national assembly seat in a by-election.
On Tuesday, Sharif said his party won’t replace Abbasi with his brother, but that decision has yet to be finalized.
Sharif did not say who will now lead his ruling Pakistan Muslim League party as last month’s court decision also barred him from participating in politics.
He said he was first removed by a president in 1993, then military dictator Pervez Musharraf toppled his government in 1999 and “now the judiciary has sent me home.”
“Does Pakistan’s elected prime minister deserve to be removed in such an insulting manner?” he asked.
He reiterated that neither he and nor any of his family members were involved in corruption.
Sharif criticized the investigators in the probe against him and his family, saying “our worst opponents were part of the JIT (Joint Investigation Team)” which was appointed by the Supreme Court earlier this year.
Sharif insisted that a larger panel in the court should hear his review petition.
He vowed to launch a mass campaign to apprise his countrymen of the work he did to put the country “back on path of progress and prosperity,”
“God willing, I will remain active. I will keep guiding my party,” he said.
Meanwhile, in another challenge to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League party, firebrand opposition cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri returned home after mostly living abroad amid pending court-cases against him in Pakistan. He has vowed to get justice for eight of his supporters killed in anti-government rallies in 2014.
Qadri, the fiery cleric, said Tuesday that he will launch a new anti-government campaign and praised the Supreme Court for disqualifying Sharif.
“Nawaz Sharif lost power because of the curses of those who lost their dear ones” in the 2014 shootouts with police, the cleric said.
Associated Press Writer Zaheer Babar in Lahore, Pakistan, contributed to this story.