Lahore: Hours after his homecoming, Pakistan’s former prime minister Nawaz Sharif highlighted the achievements of his tenure and recalled how he gave a “befitting reply” to India’s atomic explosion by conducting nuclear tests in 1998 despite being offered $5 billion by then US president Bill Clinton not to do so.
Sharif, 73, returned home on a special flight from Dubai, ending a four-year self-imposed exile in the UK, to head his party and try to secure a record fourth term in the general elections expected to be held in January.
Wearing a light blue kurta pyjama, a maroon muffler and a black coat, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo flew in from Dubai to Islamabad on the ‘Umeed-e-Pakistan’ chartered plane at around 1:30 pm local time.
He reached Lahore, considered a stronghold of his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, to address a massive rally, “I am meeting you today after several years, but my relationship of love with you is the same. There is no difference in this relationship,” he told the cheering crowd. “The love I am seeing in your eyes, I am proud of it.”
Sharif recalled the huge pressure he faced from foreign governments in 1998 when Pakistan wanted to respond to India’s nuclear test.
“There will be record present in the Foreign Office that Clinton offered me $5 billion. This happened in 1999…I could have been offered $1 billion too, but I was born from the land of Pakistan and it did not give me permission to accept what is against Pakistan’s favour.”
“Tell me, if someone else would have been in my place, you know who, could he have said this in front of the American president,” he said, taking a dig at his main rival Imran Khan.
“We conducted the atomic test and gave India a befitting reply for conducting nuclear tests,” he said in his nearly 60-minute speech at the PML-N rally at the Minar-e-Pakistan.
“So, do we get punished for this? Are verdicts announced against us for this reason?” he aked.
Sharif said he never betrayed his supporters nor did he shy away from any kind of sacrifice. He recalled how “fake cases” were framed against him, his daughter and his party leaders.
“But no one abandoned the PML-N flag. Tell me, who are they who separated Nawaz Sharif from his nation? We are those who built Pakistan. We made Pakistan an atomic power. We brought an end to load-shedding.”
He compared how roti costs way higher today than when he was in power. “Was I ousted for this reason? What is this decision? You are the public, you tell, do you agree with this decision?”
The PML-N supremo lamented how the country is in a dire state today but at the same time vowed to redirect Pakistan to the path of growth.
(Published 21 October 2023, 17:18 IST)