Lahore: Pakistan's former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday reaffirmed that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif will become the prime minister for a record fourth time.
The now 74-year-old leader first took power in 1990 but was forced out three years later by corruption allegations -- a theme that has dogged his career.
He came to power for the second time in 1997 and held the prime minister's post till 1999 when he was deposed in a military coup after plotting to sideline army chief of staff Pervez Musharraf.
More than a decade later he was back in power in 2013, but fresh graft allegations emerged when his children were named in the 2016 Panama Papers leak for holding offshore companies.
He was later convicted over separate corruption allegations and disqualified from office for life -- the third time that he failed to complete a full term.
“I still stand by my words that Nawaz Sharif will become prime minister for the fourth time,” Dawn News quoted Shehbaz Sharif, the three-time former prime minister's younger brother, as saying at a press conference here.
Talking about the allegation of rigging in the recently concluded February 8 polls, Shehbaz said that in several areas PML-N stalwarts lost and independents won.
“In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the majority is of independent candidates […] does it mean they won through rigging? And in Sindh and Balochistan, there was no sign of independents,” he said.
“On behalf of my party, independents are free, if they want to make a government, go ahead. We will sit in the opposition and fulfill our role,” Shehbaz said.
The PML-N President further said that after the party lost in 2018, it did not abuse anyone or hold any sit-ins.
“We went to Parliament with black armbands […] who doesn’t know that the election was stolen? We didn’t say we would set Parliament on fire or give the nation a message of civil disobedience.” Shehbaz said the next phase had begun after the polls and emphasised: “If they call themselves PTI-sponsored or non-PTI-sponsored - if they can form a government then they should. The president will not give them an invitation.” “If they can show the majority [in the Assembly] then we will gladly sit in the opposition benches and play the constitutional role. If they cannot make a government, then obviously other political parties will decide with consensus and field a candidate. This is the constitutional way […] we need to move forward like this and finalise the upcoming phase,” said the former prime minister, who took power after cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan was ousted in a no-trust move in April 2022.
Independent candidates, mostly backed by Khan's PTI, won 101 seats in the 266-member National Assembly in the February 8 general elections. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's PML-N has won 75 seats and former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto's PPP has won 54 seats.
The PTI-backed candidates ran as independents due to the party losing the election symbol of ‘bat’ following controversy surrounding its intra-party elections.
According to the party, the PTI was cruising with a lead of 170 National Assembly seats before the alleged rigging swung the pendulum in favour of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party.
Shehbaz also noted alleged rigging in past polls and asked: “Which election is there where allegations of rigging were not made?” “On one hand there are allegations of rigging [but] then independents are winning and we are losing. This is contradictory,” he said.
“So please, elections have happened and it was proven that out of political parties, PML-N is the biggest party. If you count independents, then their number is greater - but in political parties, PML-N is number one,” he said.
Meanwhile, in a response to questions regarding inducting “turncoats” into the PML-N, Shehbaz said PTI hurled abuses at his party during its election campaign.
“Despite that, Nawaz Sharif said that PTI-backed independents should be given their constitutional right to form a government if they want to.
“But if people want to join the PML-N out of their own will, what is the problem in that?” he asked.
“In the name of God, in the name of Pakistan, we should show the world that we have learned our lesson […] and make Pakistan a country that was envisioned by Iqbal and Quaid,” the PML-N president said.