Shahbaz Sherif
Shahbaz Sharif, the president of the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N), and brother of Nawaz Sharif, the exiled former Prime Minister of Pakistan, spoke to Sir David Frost about the ongoing political tensions in the country.

Sir David Frost (DF): This news reminds one of the old line that someone had about some country, that there having a general election and we all know which general is going to be elected.  This surprise news, a surprise because the supreme court has been fearlessly coming out with judgements that are against the president, they've come out for him here.  Did that surprise you?

Shahbaz Sharif (SS): Very much so because this was the first real test of the judiciary's independence in Pakistan and I, the Pakistani, had hoped and prayed for the sake of my country that it will remain on the side of the constitution, it will remain on the side of the rule of law, it will remain on the side of democracy, and not side with dictatorship. On the 20th July this year, when the chief justice was reinserted by the full court, I think the people of Pakistan were longing for justice for 60 years. 

Suddenly they thought justice would be dispensed and there would be a level playing field, but after today's decision those hopes have been dashed again. It's been a decision which was not expected as of what people thought that the Supreme Court has been reborn on 20th July, that they won their independence through heroic and unrepresented struggle of the bench and the bar - civil society, political leadership. Political workers, they sacrifice their time and money.

Fifty people died in Karachi on 12th May this year and only then this independence movement won after 60 years. And now again to reinvent the doctrine of necessity, to provide leeway to a dictator was something, at least I was not expecting.

DF: Is this a decision based on corruption or because they were not corrupt earlier. Is it just a decision you disagree with or do you think it was a corrupt decision?

SS: I would say with a sense of confidence that the judges have been pressurised by Musharraf and his cronies, they were threatened with dire consequences, stories appeared in the print media in Pakistan about these tactics, and if you read newspapers over the last month no single day passed when Musharraf cronies didn't make dire statements about the imposition of marshal law or emergency if Musharraf wasn't elected.

Now, for Musharraf to have bulldozed his way through to become president of Pakistan I can only say that under him all state intrusion will melt down - unfortunately you have to say that. I wish I were proven wrong but all these tactics you have seen over the last 6 months, all that has gone on under his watch only suggests that he is not the one who's going to save Pakistan from trouble. He's part of the problem and not part of the solution. This has been our mainstay.   

DF: What can Nawaz Sharif do in this situation? Is he free to go wherever he wants in Saudi Arabia or is he under house arrest?

SS: What an irony of fate that Musharraf brazenly defied the Supreme Court's verdict in this very court. They decided in favour of Nawaz Sharif and in favour of me to return to Pakistan as citizens with an inalienable right, granted in the constitution, to return and live a normal live. Musharraf defied that decision brazenly and committed contempt, committed abduction, put him on the plane and treated him worse than a convicted felon, and sent him back to Jeddah.

Now, today a decision has been awarded in his favour. How would he treat this decision when he treated with contempt the earlier decision of the same court? That's point number one. Number two, Nawaz Sharif is obviously very dejected and disappointed after the way he was mishandled in Islamabad, yet his spirits are very high and his heart is in Pakistan with the people. He's going to return very soon after the month of Ramadan.

DF: Is he going to arrive on October 18th?  The same day as Benazir Bhutto.

SS: I wish that were to be the case and this was the understanding being forged between him and Benazir while they were partners in ARD when they signed this charter of democracy, that hopefully we will fly to Pakistan together. As luck would have it Benazir took the other route to negotiate with this dictatorial regime in her own wisdom. Mr Nawaz Sharif was very clear and is very clear is his mind that shaking hands with a dictator will not usher into a democracy but will strengthen the dictatorship.

DF: So he takes that decision. Do you think this time the president will allow him in?

SS: I cannot say how he'll deal with that situation but left to him he will bundle him out again, most definitely. He does not tolerate freedom of speech, he does not tolerate political activity, he does not tolerate nationally popular leadership, he does tolerate democracy in Pakistan, and he has been acting in a way that military dictators have acted all their life and history's full of them. As the saying goes, the lesson of the history is that you don't learn endlessly from history, and that is very apt in Musharraf's case.

DF: And as you were saying you would quite like October 18th to be the day that Mr Sharif arrives back as well.

SS: Well, there is a possibility that he could arrive around that date, or earlier, or a little later, but he will be arriving back very soon.

DF: What do you think will happen in this election?

SS: The results are obvious. After providing legitimacy to military fatigues to a general who has been ruling Pakistan at the barrel of the gun for the last eight years. Now, under his watch any semblance of free and fair elections is like living in fool's paradise. It is out of the question direct and general elections, and he would want to rig the selection for his own self perpetuation, he would want to rig the election for his own gang's party, and rule Pakistan like a despot. 

DD: What about the alliance that was formed by Mr N Sharif and Benazir Bhutto? The alliance to bring back democracy. Does that still exist?

SS: I have to say that ever since Benazir Bhutto opted the other way, and one of the fundamental elements of this charter of democracy was that never again any of us would negotiate with a dictator, become part of his government, directly or indirectly. That was a solemn pledge.  A solemn commitment made by the members of ARD, the Alliance of which Benazir and N Sharif were members.

Now that she has chosen another path that alliance obviously is in doldrums, it is in tatters and it's a very unfortunate part of the story that we, the political fraternity, have not been able to form a united stand against dictatorship and that is why Musharraf has been able to carve his way out.

DD: That's a fascinating prediction. Do you think there will be a civilian, a free civilian prime minister and a civilian president in Pakistan in the foreseeable future?

SS: Not under Musharraf's watch. Having said that David, we are going to further speed up our struggle against dictatorship, against dictatorial rule, for democracy, for the supremacy of the parliament and restoring the 1973 constitution of Pakistan. As of 12th October 1999, when Musharraf came to power and threw out an elected government of N Sharif.

That's our goal. We will keep on struggling towards that direction unabated and I hope and I pray to god, Benazir Bhutto also, see the ray of light and come back in the fold of ARD so we can strengthen our watches, strengthen our claim and move forward with unity of thought and action.

DF: You mentioned earlier on that Mr N Sharif is dejected at the moment.

SS: At what happened in Islamabad to him for he was manhandled. He was grossly mishandled. He was literally dragged, physically harmed and lifted into a prisoners' van and driven to a plane through a deception plan that he's being arrested by NAB, which is an institution contributed by Musharraf, equal to Hitler's Gestapo, nationally accountable to the bureau, which does selective accountability.

He was put on the plane, led to believe he was going to another part of Pakistan to be imprisoned. Nawaz Sharif was perfectly OK with that. Then the plane took off. He was of the view that he was being taken to the south of Pakistan, to Karachi where he would be imprisoned in Landi jail. After one and a half hours when this was not happening, the plane was not descending, he asked one of the crew members who said: "you have been cheated, the plane is going back to Jeddah."  So that's what happened to Nawaz Sharif. He was obviously very dejected because of this cheating and very cleverly laid out, disciplined plan.

This interview aired on 28 September 2007.

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Source: Al Jazeera