LONDON: Former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif announced he was returning to Pakistan following the 10-year prison sentence handed to him by an accountability court, saying he has been punished because he tried to turn the course of the country’s 70-year history.
Sharif, along with his daughter Maryam Nawaz held a press conference in London hours after the verdict in the Avenfield corruption reference was announced.
The three-time premier said that if the punishment for “demanding respect for the vote is jail, I am coming to face it”, adding he will “not be a slave to those who violate their oath and the Constitution of Pakistan”.
Nawaz, referring to the prison sentence said that he has been punished because he tried to turn the course of Pakistan’s 70-year history. “I will continue my struggle till the people of Pakistan are freed of the slavery imposed on them by some generals and judges,” he added.
“I promise that I will continue this struggle until Pakistanis are free of the chains that they are kept in for saying the truth,” he said.
Sharif, however, did not give any specific time or date for his return to Pakistan. He said that the deteriorating health of his wife Kalsoom Nawaz, who is receiving cancer treatment in London, as the reason for him not being able to return immediately.
“I will return to Pakistan as soon as my wife regains consciousness,” Nawaz said and added “It is my desire to speak to Begum Kalsoom, who is my life partner for 45 years, before returning to Pakistan.”
To a question about return of Maryam, Nawaz said she is more desperate to return to Pakistan.
He expressed his reservations over the accountability court’s decision. “No pleas filed by me in court were approved, most of them were rejected, this is unfortunate because that doesn’t happen in most cases.”
Nawaz said he would utilise all the legal and constitutional rights against the verdict in Avenfield reference. Nawaz also ruled out seeking any asylum in London.
Responding to a question, Nawaz said he was rendering sacrifice for the people of Pakistan. “I am asking the nation to come with me in this defining moment and not abandon me,” he said. “Let’s change Pakistan, we have been waiting for this day for a long time, it is here now and there is no room for hesitation.”
Commenting on the verdict, Maryam Nawaz said it was easy for her to take the way of reconciliation like her contemporaries in politics “and not say anything against anyone and have a bright future”, but she decided against it.
“I knew that the issues for which I am raising voice, I will not be welcomed with garlands. But someone had to light the first flame which we have,” she maintained.
In a tweet, Maryam said that her father Nawaz Sharif was returning and attempts were being made to stop him. “Today was the last attempt and God willing it will be unsuccessful like before.”
Maryam in her tweets stressed that the resolve to fight against injustice had increased following the verdict. “You [Nawaz] chose Pakistan over your personal life. The nation is with you and victory will be yours,” Maryam tweeted.