Supporters of ousted Pakistan PM welcome him in Islamabad

A Pakistani parliamentarian from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party Maiza Hameed holds a poster of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif outside Parliament House after the election of a new prime minister in Islamabad in this Aug. 1, 2017 file photo. — AFP

ISLAMABAD — Scores of supporters have welcomed Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on his arrival to the outskirts of the capital, Islamabad, from a nearby hilltop resort. He was staying at the resort after last week’s dismissal from office by the Supreme Court for concealing family assets.

Sharif was replaced by a lawmaker from his party, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, this week.

After spending the night in Islamabad, Sharif will travel to his home city of Lahore on Sunday to address a rally there. It will be the first show of political strength from Sharif’s ruling party since his removal.

The Pakistan Muslim League party wants Abbasi to serve as premier until Sharif’s younger brother, Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab province, wins a national assembly seat in a by-election.

In an informal conversation with journalists later, Sharif said that though he has a lot to say on the circumstances surrounding his ouster, he wishes to remain silent for now, Dawn, a leading Pakistani daily, reported.

“How could I declare a salary I never received from my son's company?” he asked journalists on Saturday.

The former premier also insisted that no evidence of corruption could be found against him despite the investigation of his father’s company records.

Warning that there will be a state of anarchy in the country if it “did not walk on the right path,” Sharif said Pakistan is right now on its way to prosperity and will continue to grow.

The thrice-deposed premier also stressed the need for a political consensus. He emphasized the need for unity amongst political parties and recalled that he had accepted the PPP's mandate in Sindh after the 2013 elections.

“Even during anti-government protests and sit-ins, we never took an offensive stance,” he recalled.

Sharif, currently staying at Punjab House Islamabad, also met with political allies, including Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl chief Fazlur Rehman, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party head Mahmood Achakzai and former Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar, among others.

He was slated to address a rally in Lahore on Sunday, but has reportedly changed his initial plan of heading to Lahore via the Motorway on Sunday and will instead take the GT Road on Wednesday.

Sharif, who reportedly changed his plans on the insistence of his party cadre, is expected to address PML-N workers and supporters in cities along the GT Road as he makes his way to his home turf. — Agencies