Amid political turmoil in Pakistan following the sentencing of former PM Nawaz Sharif to 10 years in prison, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif said that Pakistan is lagging behind India in 'various fields' and asserted that 'free and fair' elections are the only way to bring the Islamic Republic back on track.
Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment by an anti-graft court in Pakistan in one of the three corruption cases against him in the Panama Papers scandal, dealing a huge blow to his party ahead of the elections on July 25. Sharif had denounced the court proceedings as politically motivated and a judicial witch-hunt. He had also suggested that the military was behind his sentencing.
"India surpassed us in various fields. We thought Bangladesh is a baggage and it slipped off our hands. Look at Sri Lanka, Singapore, China all of them worked on our blueprint and today we have lagged behind. If we don't learn our lesson then God help us," Shehbaz Sharif, Nawaz Sharif's brother, said on Thursday.
Shehbaz Sharif's remarks come at a time when hundreds of PML-N workers have been detained by the police ahead of Nawaz Sharif's return from London. PML-N leaders have accused the military of attempting to destabilise the party.
"Our economy is on the verge of decline, stock exchange is going down, our reserves can support only one month's import now, our investors went back to London & Dubai wondering what would happen on 25 July in Pakistan," Shehbaz said.
Nawaz is currently in London to tend to his ailing wife. He is expected to return to the country on July 13. Dozens of PML-N activists were arrested earlier this week and appeared in court on Wednesday, accused of plotting unrest to coincide with Sharif's return.
"Aaj Hindustan G20 mein jaata hai to mere dil ko teer lagte hain ki Modi (PM Modi) wahan jaake khada hota hai aur hum tamasha dekh rahe hain. (It hurts me when India attends G20 summit and just have to watch it) Let's convert this opportunity into making it Iqbal's Pakistan, it's only possible through free and fair elections," Shehbaaz said.
"In India, actions have been taken against political leaders like their former PM Narasimha Rao and J.Jayalalithaa. However, there are people in Pakistan who have done scam worth billions and are today fighting elections and giving sermons," he added.
Son of #Pakistan, my son is returning tomorrow. The decision was against him, Maryam & Safdar. I won't let them go to jail. If they are sent to jail, then I will go with them. I believe all of them are innocent & Allah will protect them: Shamim Akhtar, Mother of Nawaz Sharif pic.twitter.com/6kCwB1YOvt— ANI (@ANI) July 12, 2018
Addressing a press conference in London along with his daughter Maryam, Nawaz Sharif had said, "I promise that I will continue this struggle until Pakistanis are not free of the chains that they are kept in for saying the truth."
"I will continue my struggle till the people of Pakistan are not freed of the slavery imposed on them by some generals and judges," he was quoted as saying by the Dawn.
Nawaz remarked that if the punishment for "demanding respect for the vote is jail, I am coming to face it".
Sharif's 44-year-old daughter and co-accused Maryam was also given seven years for abetment, and one year for non-cooperation with the anti-corruption bureau also to run concurrently. Considered to be Sharif's political heir, Maryam will serve seven years in total.
Sharif's son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar was jailed for one year for not cooperating with the anti-graft authorities.