Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said his party’s real contest is not with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) or the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) but with “aliens,” an obvious reference to the military establishment. By blaming the army and the judiciary, he wants to create an impression that the next election will be rigged to defeat his party and he was being tried in fabricated cases.
Addressing a series of public gatherings before the start of Ramazan, he hardened his stance against the army and the judiciary after failure to get relief in corruption cases against him and his children. According to sources, he has indirectly or directly contacted the establishment about two dozen times for some relief in the cases but he was informed the army had no role in the Panama Leaks nor could it influence the courts, which are working independently. He knows his party’s chances in the next election are decreasing with the passage of every day, he seeks to make it controversial. He wants to save himself at any cost, even if he has to sacrifice his party. However, the situation as reached to a level where he cannot save himself or his party. He believes he is educating the people of the country about the role of the army in elections through the “aliens” talk, but in fact, he is trying to scare voters and “electables” away.
Addressing PTI Chief Imran Khan and PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari in a public rally, he told them they did not pose any challenge. “Imran Khan, I don’t have any competition with you. Asif Zardari, Nawaz Sharif does not have a competition with you as well. I don’t have any competition with both of you but with ‘aliens’ who cannot be seen, but the people of Pakistan are with me and I will defeat them”. His handpicked Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi went one step ahead. He said the next general elections would be conducted by “aliens,” not the caretaker government. “Elections will be held by ‘aliens’, but even then we (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) will participate in it,” he told journalists during a reception hosted by National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq for members of the lower house. His remarks prompted the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to issue a clarification. Terming the remarks against the spirit of the Constitution and its mandate, it said it was ready to conduct the 2018 election fairly and independently. “The ECP is entirely independent to discharge its constitutional responsibilities and officials should avoid giving statements driven by speculations,” it added.
Irked by taunts, PTI Chairman Imran Khan accused ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of winning the 2013 elections with the help of the army. “I’m saying this with utmost responsibility that a brigadier from Punjab had supported the PML-N in the previous election. I call it ROs’ elections because they had managed them to get favourable results in the Punjab,” he told a news channel. “It is the first time the army and the judiciary are not with Nawaz Sharif and this is what is troubling him the most. Nawaz Sharif is not protesting because the army is against him, he is annoyed because the army is not with him this time.”
It is not yet clear whether his remarks were in defence of the army or against it. It is also not known whether he has also spoiled his chances in the election or not. The army has not reacted to his criticism. However, Nawaz Sharif and his party have always been considered favourite of the establishment in the past. The Asghar Khan case testifies to it. In 2012, the Supreme Court, in a landmark verdict in the October 1990 case, had ordered legal proceedings against former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Chief General (retd) Asad Durrani and former Army Chief General Aslam Beg for distributing money among politicians, including Nawaz Sharif, to form a political alliance to stop the PPP from coming to power. Last year, the PTI had also blamed the establishment for “stealing its mandate” after years of accusations that former Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, returning and presiding officers and the Election Commission (ECP) of Pakistan had rigged the last general election. It accused former Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani of engineering the elections. PTI spokesperson Naeemul Haque made the accusation on a primetime TV show. He said his party had lost the elections because of the former army chief’s involvement in election affairs. However, the PTI leader later issued a clarification in a tweet: “My comments on General Kayani were my own and do not reflect the party’s stance in any way.” Haque said a “grand scheme” was planned by the establishment of Pakistan, the United States and Saudi Arabia and General (retd) Kayani implemented it to help the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) win the 2013 election. He said the PTI’s suspicions had proved right and a number of people were exposed during the proceedings of a judicial commission to probe alleged irregularities in the polls.
The mention of “aliens” by Nawaz Sharif and the accusations of Imran Khan have made their intentions clear. Imran Khan aims to ensure free and fair polls, unlike 2013, when all parties cried foul. Nawaz Sharif looks to malign the army and the judiciary, because he knows he cannot win the election. He has already accepted his defeat by stating that he is fighting with “aliens” because he is implying that no human can win against invisible creatures.