Pakistan's deposed premier Nawaz Sharif yesterday staged a political comeback by criticising the powerful Army and said the opposition was not against Prime Minister Imran Khan but against those who brought an "inefficient" man to power.
Addressing the All-Parties Conference (APC) hosted by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) via a video link aimed at launching a protest movement against the Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, the three-time premier launched a scathing attack on the ruling party for its "failure to address the basic problems of the people".
Nawaz, 70, the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) supremo, has been living in London since November last year after the Lahore high court granted him permission to go abroad for four weeks for treatment.
"Our foremost priority should be removing this selected government and this system. Our struggle is not against Imran Khan," said Nawaz. "Today, our struggle is against those who installed Imran Khan and who manipulated elections to bring an incapable man like him into power and thus, destroyed the country."
In an all-encompassing speech, which centred on criticising the Imran Khan-led government, Nawaz spoke on the "poor state" of Pakistan's economy, "deteriorating" international relations, "muzzling" of media and "corruption within the PTI".
"If we don't do it [take a step] today, when will we?" asked Nawaz.
"Pakistan has been constantly deprived of a democratic system [...] When the vote is dishonoured, the entire democratic system becomes meaningless. When it is decided before the election process as to who will win and who will lose, then it can be guessed how the public is betrayed and how the public's mandate is stolen."
Pakistan has become a laboratory of "such experiments", added Nawaz.
"Every child knows that no prime minister has been allowed to complete five years in power."
Nawaz said former PM Yousuf Raza Gilani once pointed to "a state within a state" in Pakistan. "It is saddening that the situation has escalated to a state above the state. This parallel government illness is the root-cause of our problems."
The speakers at APC — PML-N's Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif and PPP's Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari — were united in underscoring the "need for a plan of action". The opposition, however, has yet to announce what it is.