Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has accused the influential chief of the country’s army of ousting him in 2017, escalating political pressure on Imran Khan’s government and military.
His speech was broadcast to thousands of people in Gujranwala, a town in Punjab province, in the first of a series of nationwide rallies held by a coalition of opposition parties.
“General Qamar Javed Bajwa, you assembled our government which was functioning well, and put the nation and the country in changing your wishes,” Mr Sharif said in a video link from London, where he is on medical condition while serving a sentence. seven years for corruption in Pakistan.
The former prime minister accused the army chief of putting pressure on the judiciary and orchestrating Imran Khan’s rise to power in 2018. Pakistani analysts said he had broken an unspoken rule that the army’s influence in Islamabad should not be publicly criticized.
Pakistan’s powerful military has been under scrutiny for its role in Mr Khan’s administration, including the strategically important $ 62 billion China Belt and Road Initiative.
Sharif’s attack followed allegations by his Pakistan League-Nawaz party that he ousted the Supreme Court in 2017 over a corruption scandal.
Allegations of corruption stemmed from documents leaked by law firm Panama Mossack Fonseca, which leaked controversial information about Mr Sharif’s family, including ownership of luxury apartments overlooking Hyde Park in London.
In 2018, Mr. Sharif was convicted of unrelated corruption charges and sentenced to seven years in prison. A year later he went to London for medical treatment.
Mr Sharif is exploiting discontent with Islamabad to stage a political comeback by launching the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an alliance of 11 political parties against Mr Khan’s government.
Protests are taking place against a backdrop of slow economic growth, high inflation and rising unemployment.
While Pakistan has emerged relatively unscathed from the coronavirus pandemic compared to neighboring India, the country has billions of dollars in debt service payments owed overnight to bilateral lenders and other creditors.
The IMF predicts that Pakistan’s growth will be 1 percent in 2021.
“This is a very important moment in the political history of Pakistan. “Imran Khan has been in power for two years but ordinary Pakistanis are finding themselves increasingly tight,” said Ghazi Salahuddin, a national affairs columnist for The News, a Pakistani newspaper.
“For Nawaz Sharif, the PDM and its demands present an excellent opportunity to increase his agitation.”
Protests on Friday took place in the main political arena for the Muslim League of Pakistan – Nawaz. Maryam, his daughter and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party and son of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007, also spoke at the event.
Five more protests are scheduled for the end of the year.
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