Mr Imran Ismail’s false statement that I congratulated Mr Imran Khan during a chance meeting in a local restaurant is a futile attempt to undermine my lifelong commitment to Pakistan Muslim League and Mr Nawaz Sharif.

I joined the Muslim Student Federation in Islamia College, Lahore two years before Independence and played an active part in the Pakistan movement and the election campaign of 1945-46. My role as a student leader is well documented in at least six pictures in which I had the honour to appear with Quaid-E-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

In 1985, I joined the cabinet of Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo and assisted him in reviving the Muslim League Parliamentary Party in the Parliament elected on non-party basis. Mr Nawaz Sharif was elected as President of Punjab Muslim League in 1985 and then as President of PML in April 1993 after the death of Mr Junejo. One of Mr Nawaz Sharif’s most outstanding political achievement has been his success in spreading the roots of PML in all the four provinces plus AJK and GB, and making it the largest political party in the country. As many historians have noted, this has been important not only for building strong democratic institutions but also for strengthening the federation.

Mr Nawaz Sharif’s second landmark achievement was to make Pakistan a nuclear power. Only a bold and courageous leader like him could defy intense international pressures to conduct six nuclear tests in May 1998 and thus safeguard national security against a bigger and hostile neighbour.

But Mr Nawaz Sharif’s enduring legacy will be his commitment to economic and social development as the top most priority of the government. In his first tenure as PM from November 1990 to July 1993, he firmly told his cabinet that without rapid development, the paramount objective of reducing poverty and unemployment will not be achieved, nor can we protect our sovereignty if we remain dependant on foreign assistance. His far-reaching reforms during that tenure to transform the nature of the Pakistan economy from a closed and over regulated system to a more open and deregulated economy were historic in nature.

The economic indicators, especially growth and inflation during each of Mr Nawaz Sharif’s three tenures were better than the preceding periods. This belies recent statements that the economy performs better only under military rule. Democratic governments can also deliver rapid growth and economic stability if they are led by dynamic leaders like Nawaz Sharif.

Mr Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification on, what many lawyers have called ‘flimsy grounds’, is a national tragedy because it could have an adverse impact on the implementation of his development agenda. I am convinced however, that PML-N will win the 2018 general elections as well under the inspired guidance of Mr Nawaz Sharif.

Despite many invitations in the past three decades, I have never joined any other political party especially during the Musharraf era when Mr Nawaz Sharif was under forced exile and the party was under great stress. It is my firm belief that only a stable democratic government under PML-N can fully safeguard the security and progress of the country in the future.